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Monday, September 27, 2010     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Hamas marginalizes its West Bank leadership

RAMALLAH — Hamas has been ignoring its leadership in the West Bank during the movement's effort to torpedo Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.


Palestinian sources said the Hamas leadership in the West Bank has been marginalized during the Islamic movement's offensive against the Palestinian Authority. The sources said the Islamist leadership in the West Bank was not given a say in Hamas's opposition to PA talks with Israel.

"The decisions are being made in Damascus with some coordination with Gaza," a Palestinian source said. "Nobody in the West Bank was even contacted."

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The Hamas commander in the West Bank was identified as Omar Abdul Razeq. Abdul Razeq, appointed over the last year, has lived in the northern West Bank village of Salfit near the Jewish city of Ariel, Middle East Newsline reported.

The sources said Razeq and other members of the West Bank leadership have been unhappy over the Hamas offensive against the PA. They said the PA has responded with the worst crackdown in years — the arrest of nearly 800 operatives in the West Bank.

As a result, Hamas communiques from the West Bank have differed from those issued from the Gaza Strip and Syria. The West Bank communiques claimed responsibility for attacks on Israeli civilians but denied that this was connected to talks with the PA. On Aug. 31, Hamas claimed responsibility for the killing of four Israelis south of Hebron.

The sources said Hamas in Damascus and the Gaza Strip was seeking to escalate attacks in the West Bank. They said Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari and his deputy, Marwan Issa, were in contact with sleeper cells in the West Bank as well directing an effort to recruit operatives.

"Most of the Hamas operational network was destroyed over the last three years, so Jabari has been sending agents from the West Bank and Jordan to infiltrate the West Bank," the source said.

At this point, the sources said, Jabari and Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Masha'al have not ordered suicide bombings in Israel. They said the Hamas leadership assessed that such attacks could spark another Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Instead, Jabari has ordered Hamas operatives in the West Bank to resist PA security operations. So far, the sources said, Hamas has not obeyed Jabari's order and refrained from firing weapons against PA forces.

"The mood within Hamas in the West Bank is to avoid a confrontation with the PA," another source said. "But the money and orders are coming from the outside."

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