Hamas profited from close Yassin ties with Saudis

Monday, March 29, 2004

GAZA CITY The Israeli assassination of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin may disrupt the organizations ties with a primary funding source.

"Sheik Yassin had personal ties with the Saudi leadership and many of the elderly princes were comfortable in dealing with him," a Palestinian source said. "Whoever his successor is will have to rebuild that trust and that won't come easy."

Palestinian sources and analysts said the tens of millions of dollars relayed by the Saudi kingdom every year to Hamas stemmed from the close ties of the royal family to Yassin.

The sources said the Saudi kingdom appeared wary of Abdul Aziz Rantisi, who has claimed to succeed Yassin. They cited a lack of familiarity with Rantisi as well as his strident opposition to the Palestinian Authority. On Sunday, Rantisi termed President George Bush an enemy of Islam. But he did not threaten attacks against the United States, Middle East Newsline reported.

The source said Saudi rulers had found Yassin receptive to their appeals for Hamas to avoid any confrontation with the Palestinian Authority and chairman Yasser Arafat.

"We realize that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims," Rantisi told a Hamas rally in Gaza City. "America declared war on God. [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon declared war on God, and God declared war on America, Bush and Sharon. The war of God goes on against them and I can see victory arising from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas."

Saudi Arabia was said to have provided Hamas with more than $30 million a year, much of it relayed through the United States in the guise of real estate and other investment. The United States has asked the kingdom to halt its funding to both the civilian and military wings of Hamas.

The sources said Hamas politbureau chief Khaled Masha'al will attempt to continue relations with Saudi Arabia. But they said the Saudis will be cautious in dealing with Masha'al because of his close ties to Qatar, a longtime rival of Riyad.

A key concern of the Saudis has been that the death of Yassin will result in a stronger Hamas relationship with Fatah and other Palestinian insurgency groups. Under Yassin, Hamas limited such relations to operational considerations, including joint attacks. The sources said Rantisi could form an anti-PA coalition with the ruling Fatah movement and other groups.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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