Hamas plans major attacks on Israel, says U.S. not the target

Thursday, March 20, 2003

RAMALLAH Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have discussed plans for major attacks on Israel during the Iraq war, according the Palestinian security sources.

The sources said senior officials have met representatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad and warned them not to launch suicide missions in Israel during the U.S.-led war against Iraq. The sources said such an attack would spark a harsh Israeli retaliation and could endanger the regime of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

But on late Wednesday, Palestinian sources reported clashes between Hamas gunmen and PA security forces in Gaza City. They said PA General Intelligence agents launched the anti-Hamas operation.

Hamas has reassured the United States that it would not be a target in any Palestinian attack. Hamas said it would not attack Americans or U.S. installations in either the Palestinian areas or anywhere else in the Middle East. Hamas also denied that it had established a cell in Kuwait to attack U.S. military targets.

"Despite the American support for the Zionist entity and despite the fact that Iraq is part of our Islamic nation, we consider our battle here in Palestine against the Zionist entity to be our only legitimate battle," Hamas spokesman Abdul Aziz Rentisi said. "The Hamas movement is not going to target any American interests at all, at any time."

On Thursday, Palestinian gunners fired Kassam-2 short-range missiles from the northern Gaza Strip toward Israel. At the same time, Israeli officials said authorities captured a suspected would-be Palestinian suicide bomber in the West Bank.

Israeli officials said they have accelerated security cooperation efforts with the PA to avoid any major attacks inside Israel. President Moshe Katsav said that he secretly met last week with PA Interior Minister Hani Al Hassan.

Al Hassan was said to have offered a ceasefire in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from cities in the West Bank. Katsav said the PA must first stop attacks against Israel.

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