GAZA CITY ø Saudi Arabia has withheld its pledge for millions of
dollars to Hamas in a move that threatens operations of the Islamic
Palestinian sources said the Hamas leadership had been expecting payment
of between $2 million and $5 million from Saudi Arabia in February 2004.
They said the Saudis suspended payment amid U.S. pressure and the subsequent
assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.
"Hamas envoys have been literally begging the Saudis to honor their
pledge," a Palestinian source close to Hamas said. "The Saudis are nervous
about giving Hamas money after Yassin's death. They don't know who they're
dealing with anymore."
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz has headed the
kingdom's fund for the Palestinian war against Israel, Middle East Newsline reported. Most of the money
from the fund has gone to Hamas, the sources said.
Western diplomatic sources who follow Saudi Arabia confirmed that Riyad
has suspended the transfer of millions of dollar to Hamas. But the sources
cited U.S. pressure on the Saudi kingdom to end support for groups deemed by
the State Department as terrorist.
"There's been a lot of U.S. pressure on the Saudis and that has held
things up," a Western diplomatic source said. "I think the Saudis are using
the chaos in Hamas as an excuse to delay."
The Palestinian sources said the Saudi failure has resulted in a
financial crisis within Hamas. They said Hamas could begin cutbacks in
services as early as May.
Saudi Arabia was estimated to relay more than $30 million a year to
Hamas. A U.S. official who deals in counter-terrorism said the kingdom
increased funding to Hamas in 2002 and 2003 to nearly $80 million a year.
The Hamas crisis has deepened in wake of the Israeli assassination of
Yassin's successor, Abdul Aziz Rantisi. Under orders of political bureau
Masha'al, Hamas has appointed a secret leadership believed headed by Mahmoud
A-Zahar and Ismail Haniya.
The sources said Masha'al has appealed to Iran to compensate for the
Saudi funds. They said Iran has agreed to send aid over the next few weeks.
Prominent Hamas members have acknowledged a crisis within the movement
in the aftermath of the assassination of Yassin and Rantisi. They said Hamas
has lost its entire leadership in the West Bank and most of its leadership
in the Gaza Strip.
On Tuesday, Israel's military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon
Zeevi-Farkash, said Hamas has been hurled into anarchy. He said Hamas's
ability to attack Israel has been reduced over the last few weeks.
The Egyptian state-owned daily said Hamas would meet on Wednesday to
formally select a leadership. On late Saturday, Masha'al announced that
Hamas's branch in the Gaza Strip had appointed a new leader, but said his
name would remain secret to avoid any Israeli assassination attempt.