Hamas plans to govern Gaza after Israeli pullout

Thursday, March 11, 2004

GAZA CITY Hamas plans to administer the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of any Israeli withdrawal from the area.

Hamas has drafted a plan that calls for a Palestinian civilian administration over the Gaza Strip after an Israeli pullout, the organization said, according to a report by Middle East Newsline.

The plans calls for security to be assumed by Palestinian insurgency groups rather than solely by the Palestinian Authority.

In Washington, the State Department dismissed the Hamas plan. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher questioned the aim of Hamas's plan to take over Gaza.

"To blow everything up and kill more people?" Boucher asked. "I'm afraid all we have ever seen from Hamas is explosions and death and destruction."

On Wednesday, Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman meets PA Chairman Yasser Arafat to resume security talks. Suleiman was expected to discuss preparations in the Gaza Strip for any Israeli pullout. "Hamas has worked on formulating an administration plan that includes political, administrative and social processes and all the other fields that serve Palestinians," Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin said.

This is the first time Hamas has acknowledged plans to take over the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources said Hamas has been engaged in a military buildup and the organization of a so-called popular army meant to protect the area from Israeli invasion.

[On Wednesday, an Israeli armored force conducted a search-and-destroy operation for weapons tunnels in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. In the West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli troops captured the commander of the Islamic Jihad, Anas Hatnawi.]

At a news conference on Tuesday, Yassin said the Gaza plan has not yet been completed. He said the program would be drafted and released before an Israeli pullout.

Hamas said it would not seek sole responsibility for security in the Gaza Strip. Yassin said this would require a joint effort by such groups as Fatah, Islamic Jihad as well as Hamas.

"We have never had the intention to take over security responsibilities in the strip," Yassin said. "We seek cooperation and partnership among all the Palestinian national and Islamic movements."

Another element of the plan includes the future of Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas plan was said to call for the retention of these communities and the use of those homes for Palestinian insurgents and the families of suicide bombers.

Hamas spokesman Said Siyam said his movement would discuss the Hamas plan with other Palestinian insurgency groups. He said the plan includes all aspects of administration of the Gaza Strip, including economic, political, security and social welfare.

Earlier, Hamas commander Mohammed Deif said his organization has been developing missiles and other weapons for attacks against Israel. Deif appeared on Hamas's web site in an indication that he has returned to full activity after he was seriously injured in an Israeli attack in September 2002.

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