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Israel claims it has infiltrated, crippled Hamas

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, May 11, 2004

TEL AVIV Israel's military has infiltrated the leading Islamic insurgency group in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli military sources said the nation's intelligence community has infiltrated the Hamas movement in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The sources said Israel's infiltration of Hamas in the West Bank has been so thorough that the intelligence community usually received advanced warnings as well as details of suicide bombing plots.

"This has been one of the most important developments in our fight against Hamas," a military source said. "Three years ago, the idea of being able to infiltrate Hamas was unimaginable."

A senior Israeli security official agreed that much of Israel's information on Hamas comes from within the organization, Middle East Newsline reported. The official did not dispute the assertion that Israeli intelligence has infiltrated Hamas.

The result has been a steady reduction in Hamas's operational capability in what has prevented the Islamic organization from launching a major attack in the Jewish state, the sources said. They said special operations forces have killed or captured several leading Hamas operatives who had planned suicide attacks in Israel over the last few weeks. They said Hamas, amid a cash shortfall, has been hard-pressed to replace senior operatives.

"Hamas has been trying extremely hard to carry out a terrorist attack," a senior Israeli security official said. "But for the first time, we have determined that they have been facing serious operational difficulties."

Over a 48-hour period, Israeli authorities foiled several attacks. On May 6, Israel's military located a car bomb containing three explosive devices ready to be activated. The car was found in an olive grove near the northern West Bank village of Salem, east of Nablus.

"It is important to stress that more than 70 suicide bombings inside Israel were thwarted in the last seven months by the security forces in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," an Israeli military statement said.


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Israeli intelligence on Hamas leaders and operatives improved significantly in both the West Bank as well as in the Gaza Strip in 2003, the sources said. They said this has enabled Israeli forces to track the movements of most senior Hamas operatives and obtain alerts of planned suicide attacks.

At the same time, the sources said, Israel's military has been steadily eliminating key Hamas operatives in the West Bank, particularly in Hebron and Nablus. They said this has resulted in a sharp drop in the quantity and quality of Hamas operations.

"The prime minister, in several key operations, has managed to erode Hamas," Deputy Education Minister Zvi Hendel, a vociferous critic of Israel's policy in the war against the Palestinians, said.

During April, Israeli authorities, aided by improved intelligence, foiled a series of suicide bombings. On April 5, Fatah operative Said Zalah was arrested in Khan Yunis as he prepared for a suicide attack in Israel in cooperation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Six days later, a senior Fatah operative, Wajah Abu Alun, involved in sending a suicide bomber, was arrested in Jdeida. The following day, three Hamas and Fatah operatives were arrested in the Bethlehem as they were planning two separate suicide attacks.

Palestinian analysts agree that Hamas has been frustrated in its effort to launch a major attack on an Israeli civilian target in wake of the assassination of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantisi in March and April. They said Hamas's failure could affect the popularity of the organization as well as its recruitment efforts.

"Everybody has been anticipating a strong response to the assassination," Hisham Ahmed, a professor of political science at Birzeit University and author of a book on Hamas, said.. If this were not to happen, I presume that the level of Hamas's popularity would be seriously affected."


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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