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Wednesday, December 22, 2010     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Cable: Israel contradicted U.S. intel, predicted Hamas would overrun Gaza in 2007

LONDON — Israel, unlike its U.S. partner, proved correct in assessments that Hamas would overrun the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip.


A U.S. State Department cable reported on a meeting between Israel's domestic security chief and the American ambassador on the eve of the Hamas offensive in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Israel Security Agency director Yuval Diskin, disputing U.S. intelligence assessments, warned of a powerful Hamas militia that could easily overpower Fatah and PA security forces.

"Diskin shared his assessment of the current situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, painting a picture of a desperate, disorganized, and demoralized Fatah in the Gaza Strip, versus a well-organized and ascendant Hamas," the classified U.S. embassy cable, released by WikiLeaks, said.

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The cable, reporting on a June 11, 2007 meeting between Diskin and U.S. ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, reviewed Hamas and PA forces in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. The Diskin briefing, one day before Hamas began its assault on the PA, asserted that Hamas had infiltrated PA security forces and was seizing weapons from the Presidential Guard, loyal to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"Hamas is dominant in most areas," the cable quoted Diskin as saying. "In the Gaza Strip, it can win every fight with Fatah, but Fatah can do it harm in its chaotic way of fighting."

The Israeli assessment contrasted with that of the United States. In May 2007, U.S. security coordinator Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton assured Congress that the U.S.-trained PA forces could block any Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Weeks later, Hamas destroyed the PA, with thousands of troops loyal to Abbas either fleeing or surrendering.

Still, Diskin underestimated the fragility of PA and Fatah units. The ISA chief said Hamas could defeat Fatah but not eliminate the movement.

"Diskin said that Hamas is dominant in the Gaza Strip, but is not yet strong enough there to completely destroy Fatah," the cable said.

Diskin was scathing in his criticism of PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan, said to personally pay most of the security forces in the Gaza Strip. He said Dahlan was no longer operating in the Gaza Strip and preferred to direct his forces from Egypt.

"Dahlan is trying to manage Fatah's security forces by remote control," Diskin was quoted as saying. "We are not even sure where he is."

"They [PA] are approaching a zero-sum situation, and yet they ask us to attack Hamas," Diskin said. "This is a new development. We have never seen this before. They are desperate."

The PA was said to have requested Israeli approval for the training of Abbas loyalists in such countries as Egypt and Yemen. Diskin said he had objected to Yemen because of the strong presence of Al Qaida. He also said he opposed the U.S. transfer of weapons to PA forces in Gaza.

"Diskin claimed that most of the Fatah-aligned security forces have been penetrated by Hamas," the cable said. "He reiterated that he does not want to see any equipment transferred to them before he is convinced that the equipment will arrive at its intended destination."

The ISA chief expressed concern over the then-commander of the PA General Intelligence Services, Brig. Gen. Tawfik Tirawi. Diskin portrayed Tirawi as "psychopathic, cruel and dangerous" and said the PA security commander was trying to forge an alliance with the Dughmoush clan in the Gaza Strip, which later formed an Al Qaida-aligned militia.

"Diskin explained that Tirawi — whom he described as psychopathic, cruel, dangerous and prone to extreme mood swings — is disaffected and feels that his status has declined, and that he is no longer respected by Abbas," the cable said. "Diskin claimed that Tirawi also feels that his relationship with Dahlan has deteriorated."

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