Hamas’s secretive military branch comes out of hiding

September 09, 2005

* This is an update to several previous dispatches on this list concerning Hamas. The actions of Hamas are particularly significant at this time due to the political vacuum left by Israel in Gaza and the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections to be held on January 25, 2006.

 

CONTENTS

1. Hamas “work accident” kills four and wounds thirty
2. Hamas financial conduit discovered
3. “Hamas’s secretive military branch reveals its structure” (AP, Sept. 4, 2005)
4. “Rantisi’s widow runs for election” (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 3, 2005)
5. “Hamas develops improved rocket” (Ynetnews, Sept. 4, 2005)
6. “In Gaza, a young man’s stunt sparks rumble” (AFP / Jordan Times, Sept. 5, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

HAMAS’S SECRETIVE MILITARY BRANCH COMES OUT OF HIDING MALAYSIA HOSTING SITES

In a sign that Hamas are desperate to claim credit for the Israeli pullout from Gaza and keen to challenge the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’s secretive military branch has emerged from hiding.

In an unprecedented move, the Hamas website this week published the names of its seven commanders along with brief biographies and photos.

The host company for the Hamas website resides in Malaysia, which has for many years provided a safe haven for Hamas websites including the official website of the Al Qassam brigade.

RANTISI’S WIDOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION

The widow of former Hamas terror leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi will run in January’s Parliamentary elections. In the article attached below, she publicly praises female Palestinian suicide bombers.

Following the death of Rantisi last year, one of the dispatches on this list provided an account of Rantisi, the so-called “pediatrician of death,” in his own words. Among his comments was: “By God, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine. We will fight them with all the strength we have.”

HAMAS LEADERS CONTINUE TO VOICE THEIR OPINIONS

The most wanted Hamas bomb-maker, Mohammed Deif, two weeks ago claimed the Gaza pullout a victory for what he described as “armed resistance.” He added “We will not hesitate, and we will not rest until we liberate our holy land fully.”

Last week, Newsweek interviewed a co-founder of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar. He told the international news weekly that he hoped that Gaza would become what Newsweek called “Hamastan”.

Most of the international media continues to ignore comments by men such as Deif and Zahar, while urging Israel to make more concessions and to start a dialogue with Hamas.

HAMAS “WORK ACCIDENT” KILLS FOUR AND WOUNDS THIRTY

An explosion in a weapons laboratory of a Hamas bomb-maker in Gaza City on Monday night killed four people and injured 30. The explosion happened at the home of Nidal Farhat a senior member of the armed wing of Hamas.

Three nearby houses caught fire and many women and children were among the wounded. A Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip blamed the explosion on Israel. But PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said the blast was not caused by Israel, and was the result of Hamas explosives exploding prematurely.

Certain international agencies will no doubt add these deaths to the overall Palestinian death toll, leaving gullible readers with the impression that Israel caused them.

HAMAS FINANCIAL CONDUIT DISCOVERED, U.A.E. INVOLVED

The Israeli government announced this week that Osama Zaki Muhammad Bashiti, a Khan Younis merchant and moneychanger, had been arrested by Israeli forces in July. He has confessed to serving as a middleman in transferring funds to Hamas from abroad.

Bashiti passed the funds to Muhammad Sanouar, a senior official in Hamas’s military wing in Gaza. He is responsible for many terror attacks on Israelis civilians, including two pre-Intifada bombings in March 1996 in Jerusalem and Ashkelon, in which 44 Israeli civilians were killed and dozes injured.

Bashiti transferred funds to Hamas from the United Arab Emirates.

HAMAS DEVELOP IMPROVED QASSAM ROCKET

In December 2001, I reported on this email list the first news reports of that the first Qassam rocket was about to be deployed by Palestinians. Almost four years later, the third article on this dispatch elaborates upon a new Qassam rocket which has now developed a range of 16.5 kilometers; it is presently in an advance stage of development and brings within range many more Israeli towns and communities.

The final article below is another illustration of the problems ordinary Palestinians face in Gaza due to factional in-fighting between armed groups.

I attach four articles, with summaries first.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

HAMAS’S SECRETIVE MILITARY BRANCH COMES OUT OF HIDING

“Hamas’s secretive military branch reveals its structure” (The Associated Press, September 4, 2005)

Hamas’s secretive military wing emerged from hiding yesterday, naming commanders and detailing how they attacked Israelis as part of a competition with the Palestinian Authority over who will get credit for Israel’s pullout from Gaza.

The battle over public opinion could determine who rules Gaza after the final Israeli soldiers leave Sept. 15. Hamas says it drove Israel out with attacks, while Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas credits his nonviolent approach...

On its website, the Hamas military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, laid bare its command structure for the first time, posting the names of seven top operatives, along with photos, biographies, and interviews. One of the commanders said the group had more volunteers for suicide missions than he could dispatch.

Hamas is also printing tens of thousands of fliers with the content of the website, to be distributed in coming days in mosques and at rallies...

 

RANTISI’S WIDOW RUNS FOR ELECTION

“Rantisi’s widow runs for election” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, The Jerusalem Post, September 3, 2005)

Rasha Rantisi, the widow of slain Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, announced on Saturday that she was planning to run in parliamentary elections scheduled to be held next January...

She lauded the role of Palestinian women in the fight against Israel, specifically referring to those who carried out suicide attacks such as Reem al-Rayashi, Ayat al-Akhras and Hanadi Jaradat.

“Palestinian women have produced great heroes who resisted the occupation in a legendary fashion and dug underground tunnels that instilled fear in the hearts of the enemy,” she added. “It is with great honor that we see today the fruits of these sacrifices, as the enemy run away from our lands.”

Rantisi said the fight against Israel would not be over with the completion of Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank. “Our case is not Gaza alone,” she stressed. “The other parts of Palestine and the Aksa mosque continue to suffer under the yoke of occupation.”

 

HAMAS DEVELOP IMPROVED QASSAM ROCKET

“Hamas develops improved rocket” (By Alex Fishman, Ynetnews, September 4, 2005)

Hamas terrorists have developed a Qassam rocket with a 16.5 kilometer (about 10 miles) range. As a result, the power station in the southern town of Ashkelon, as well as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s private residence, Sycamore Ranch, are now in range of the Qassams.

According to reports received by Israel recently, Hamas’ engineers were able to achieve a significant advance in their rocket technology. The new rockets are not operational yet, but rather, in advance stages of development and experimentation, but a senior security official said the Hamas will possess ready-to-use rockets in several months if development work continues.

Such rockets would threaten dozens of other Israeli communities as well as sensitive sites...

 

“THEY ARE NOT THE POLICE. THEY ARE ONLY MASKED MEN”

“In Gaza, a young man’s stunt sparks rumble” (By Ned Parker, Agence France Presse, as carried in the Jordan Times, September 5, 2005)

... It started when 29-year-old Sidqi Barbakh revved the wheels of his blue Mercedes, spewing dirt in the faces of Hamas fighters manning a nighttime checkpoint.

Barbakh’s challenge set off events that brought the two Palestinian political heavyweights Hamas and Fateh to the brink of armed conflict, at a time when many fear a spike in inter-Palestinian fighting as political parties jockey for power after Israel completes its withdrawal.

Palestinian parties’ militias occasionally come to blows in the Gaza Strip. In July, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and its Fateh supporters battled in Gaza City.

In gentler places, Barbakh’s hot-rod manoeuvre might have sparked a drag race, but in this traumatised city of 156,0000, where blood and political ties overlap, armed Hamas men vowed to hunt him down...

According to tradition, Barbakh’s family sent an emissary to the aggrieved Hamas members’ relatives with a formal apology, but it was not enough.

The Hamas members jumped a car a few days later carrying someone they thought was Barbakh, whom they proceeded to beat...

Finally, Tuesday morning at 2:00am, the Hamas men hunting Barbakh for a week pumped 12 shots into his car when he tried to speed by their checkpoint. The bullet holes pierced the windshield next to a smiling decal of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Barbakh received a shrapnel wound in his back, his brother Walid had shrapnel in his neck. The pair tumbled to the ground and neighbours came out and shielded them from the Hamas members.

Within minutes, a car of men sprayed bullets into the home of Hamas’ political leader in Rafah, Issa Nashar, but wounded no one in the house...

In backroom meetings, the sheikhs from the Barbakh tribe and Hamas and Fateh leaders tried to defuse the crisis and reached a deal by sunset.

The sides agreed the Hamas members would offer an apology to the Barbakhs and the bands tucked their guns away. The fight was graded down to tribal and the political parties walked away, happy they had averted a bloodbath.

Limping outside his home, Barbakh, who wears a black beard, vented angrily about Hamas’ continued nighttime checkpoints on the streets of Rafah.

“I refused to stop at their checkpoints because they are not the police. They are only masked men,” the young man says to nods of approval from a dozen relatives, many of whom identified themselves as Fateh followers...

 



FULL ARTICLES

HAMAS’S SECRETIVE MILITARY BRANCH COMES OUT OF HIDING

Hamas’s secretive military branch reveals its structure
Details attacks in bid to get credit for Gaza pullout
The Associated Press
September 4, 2005

Hamas’s secretive military wing emerged from hiding yesterday, naming commanders and detailing how they attacked Israelis as part of a competition with the Palestinian Authority over who will get credit for Israel’s pullout from Gaza.

The battle over public opinion could determine who rules Gaza after the final Israeli soldiers leave Sept. 15. Hamas says it drove Israel out with attacks, while Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas credits his nonviolent approach.

Yesterday, a defiant Hamas delivered a new challenge to Abbas, who has come under increasing international pressure to disarm the group after the Israeli pullout, but is reluctant to do so.

On its website, the Hamas military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, laid bare its command structure for the first time, posting the names of seven top operatives, along with photos, biographies, and interviews. One of the commanders said the group had more volunteers for suicide missions than he could dispatch.

Hamas is also printing tens of thousands of fliers with the content of the website, to be distributed in coming days in mosques and at rallies.

The seven names were known to some in Gaza, but yesterday marked the first time Hamas itself presented them in public, along with their job titles. At the top of the pyramid was Mohammed Deif, who has been number one on Israel’s wanted list for years and has survived three attempts by Israel to kill him.

In comments posted on the website, Deif warned that Hamas would use force if Palestinian police tried to disarm or arrest members of the group.

“We will respond to any attack, whether from the authority or from the Israelis,” Deif was quoted as saying.

Deif also said Izzedine al Qassam would not disband, but would instead continue to develop weapons, including rockets.

He was evasive when asked whether the group would stick to an informal cease-fire with Israel, particularly after the Gaza pullout. Hamas is competing in parliamentary elections in January and appears reluctant to carry out attacks, amid concerns it could lose popularity among voters if held responsible for provoking reprisals.

Hassan Yousef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank, said Izzedine al Qassam came forward “to show the role of resistance in liberating Gaza.” Alluding to the competition with Abbas, he said the militants “felt that there are some people who wanted to downplay the role of the resistance.”

Abbas is also trying to win political capital from the Israeli pullout.

He stands to gain if Gazans, fenced in during nearly five years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, win some freedom of movement as a result of new border arrangements the Palestinian Authority is trying to negotiate with Israel.

In a visit to Palestinian schools at the start of the new school year yesterday, Abbas emphasized that the Israeli pullout will improve daily life.

“God willing, the people will live in peace and security,” Abbas told students in Gaza City. “The Israeli attacks will end, and then people will enjoy freedom of movement.”

A senior Israeli defense official, Major General Amos Gilad, reiterated yesterday that Israel would retaliate harshly against any attacks from Gaza, even after the pullout. He said the Palestinian Authority has the means, but not the political will to disarm Hamas.

“Hamas is basically setting itself up as an alternative Palestinian Authority,” he told Israel Radio.

Israel has demanded Abbas disarm the group -- in line with Palestinian obligations under the US-backed “road map” peace plan. Israel also opposes Hamas participation in parliament elections.

Abbas has been trying to co-opt the militants, offering them employment in the security services and urging them not to flaunt their weapons in public. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said yesterday that “changes of government and power will be through ballots, not bullets.”

Abbas, however, might be forced to act if Hamas continues to embarrass him, as part of the growing competition over public support.

In his website comments, Deif described how Izzedine al Qassam gradually built bombs and rockets. He said the group’s first attack, in January 1992, was the killing of a rabbi in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Darom in Gaza. “He was shot by our brothers with a 7mm pistol . . . which was the only pistol that we had,” he said.

In 1995, after a few failures, Hamas built its first crude bombs, followed a few years later by rockets. He said the most effective weapon was the suicide blast, scores of which Hamas set off in Israel from the mid-1990s. Hundreds of Israelis, including many civilians, were killed in such bombings.

The other senior operatives named on the website were: Ahmed Jaberi, a Deif deputy; Raed Saed, commander of Gaza City; Ahmed al Ghandor, commander of northern Gaza; Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, commander of southern Gaza; Marwan Issa, a Deif deputy; and Mohammed al Sanwar, commander of the town of Khan Younis.

 

RANTISI’S WIDOW RUNS FOR ELECTION

Rantisi’s widow runs for election
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
September 3, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1125717507226

Rasha Rantisi, the widow of slain Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, announced on Saturday that she was planning to run in parliamentary elections scheduled to be held next January.

In a statement issued in Gaza City, the widow called on female supporters of Hamas to follow suit and to present their candidacy for the elections. “We are now headed toward a more difficult period,” she said. “We are headed toward the phase of construction after liberation. Palestinian women are called upon to take an active and powerful role in the process of reconstruction.”

Rantisi, who is also known as Umm Muhammed, said she decided to participate in the elections so that she could bring about real changes and reforms and battle corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

She lauded the role of Palestinian women in the fight against Israel, specifically referring to those who carried out suicide attacks such as Reem al-Rayashi, Ayat al-Akhras and Hanadi Jaradat.

“Palestinian women have produced great heroes who resisted the occupation in a legendary fashion and dug underground tunnels that instilled fear in the hearts of the enemy,” she added. “It is with great honor that we see today the fruits of these sacrifices, as the enemy run away from our lands.”

Rantisi said the fight against Israel would not be over with the completion of Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank. “Our case is not Gaza alone,” she stressed. “The other parts of Palestine and the Aksa mosque continue to suffer under the yoke of occupation.”

Addressing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the widow said: “Don’t ever think of returning to Gaza. You must know that what the world has witnessed marks the beginning of the destruction of your state. Gaza won’t lay down its weapon and will continue the struggle.”

In August 2002, the IDF released what it said was a telephone conversation between Rantisi’s wife and a Hamas activist.

In the conversation, which was broadcast on Israel’s Arabic- language satellite television station, the voice of a man, who identified himself as “a student of the martyr engineer Yehya Ayyash,” asks to speak with Muhammed, Rantisi’s son.

The woman on the other end of the line, who identified herself as Umm Muhammed [Muhammed’s mother], begged the man not to send her son on a suicide mission because he was her only son and had not yet finished school.

The call, intercepted and recroded by one of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, was handed over to the IDF as part of security coordination between the two sides.

 

HAMAS DEVELOP IMPROVED QASSAM ROCKET

Hamas develops improved rocket
By Alex Fishman
Ynetnews
September 4, 2005

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3137343,00.html

Hamas terrorists have developed a Qassam rocket with a 16.5 kilometer (about 10 miles) range. As a result, the power station in the southern town of Ashkelon, as well as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s private residence, Sycamore Ranch, are now in range of the Qassams.

According to reports received by Israel recently, Hamas’ engineers were able to achieve a significant advance in their rocket technology. The new rockets are not operational yet, but rather, in advance stages of development and experimentation, but a senior security official said the Hamas will possess ready-to-use rockets in several months if development work continues.

Such rockets would threaten dozens of other Israeli communities as well as sensitive sites.

Officials here are concerned that the first cargo ships to reach the Gaza port following the disengagement will carry equipment that will allow terrorists to improve their Qassams.

“It’s already waiting in a warehouse somewhere,”an Israeli expert said Saturday. “If under improvised conditions they were able to produce such a quantity of rockets, we can expect very ‘hot’ days after the pullout.”

The expert also warned that better explosives would make the rockets more lethal and destructive.

According to intelligence information, terror groups in Gaza already possess rockets with an 11-12 kilometer range (about 7 miles) but have not fired them on Israel yet. The longest-range Qassam to be fired at Israel to date traveled nine kilometers (close to six miles.)

Intelligence assessments regarding the rocket threat lead to a decision to install the Red Dawn anti-Qassam alert system in Ashkelon. Currently, the system operates in the southern town of Sderot, ravaged by rocket attacks over the past year.

 

“THEY ARE NOT THE POLICE. THEY ARE ONLY MASKED MEN”

In Gaza, a young man’s stunt sparks rumble
By Ned Parker
Agence France-Presse (as carried in the Jordan Times)
September 5, 2005

www.jordantimes.com/mon/news/news6.htm

It could have been Detroit or London. Teenagers fighting over sneakers and a nasty look. But this was Rafah, one of the world’s grimmest border towns, where a young man’s grudge could drag families and militias to war and rattle society’s very foundations.

It started when 29-year-old Sidqi Barbakh revved the wheels of his blue Mercedes, spewing dirt in the faces of Hamas fighters manning a nighttime checkpoint.

Barbakh’s challenge set off events that brought the two Palestinian political heavyweights Hamas and Fateh to the brink of armed conflict, at a time when many fear a spike in inter-Palestinian fighting as political parties jockey for power after Israel completes its withdrawal.

Palestinian parties’ militias occasionally come to blows in the Gaza Strip. In July, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and its Fateh supporters battled in Gaza City.

In gentler places, Barbakh’s hot-rod manoeuvre might have sparked a drag race, but in this traumatised city of 156,0000, where blood and political ties overlap, armed Hamas men vowed to hunt him down.

Both sides fell back on their connections. Barbakh leaned on his status as an intelligence agent in the Palestinian Authority and his tribal ties with his 15,000 strong clan that flaunts a reputation for never steering away from a fight.

“Every party depends on big families to support their cause,” says local Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom.

According to tradition, Barbakh’s family sent an emissary to the aggrieved Hamas members’ relatives with a formal apology, but it was not enough.

The Hamas members jumped a car a few days later carrying someone they thought was Barbakh, whom they proceeded to beat.

A tense standoff ensued in Rafah’s Brazil refugee camp where the warring sides lived.

Tucked on a side street, Barbakh’s five-floor grey apartment building, spray-painted in red and black with the names of men killed in the Intifada, stood about 300 metres from the white home of a prominent Hamas member whose followers guarded the street at night.

Finally, Tuesday morning at 2:00am, the Hamas men hunting Barbakh for a week pumped 12 shots into his car when he tried to speed by their checkpoint. The bullet holes pierced the windshield next to a smiling decal of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Barbakh received a shrapnel wound in his back, his brother Walid had shrapnel in his neck. The pair tumbled to the ground and neighbours came out and shielded them from the Hamas members.

Within minutes, a car of men sprayed bullets into the home of Hamas’ political leader in Rafah, Issa Nashar, but wounded no one in the house.

At daylight, the Barbakhs’ filed an arrest warrant against four Hamas members, including Nashar’s son.

A policemen went to arrest one of the Hamas member and gunmen fired warning shots. At least 40 Fateh and Hamas men flooded the area, poised with weapons, and took positions across the city.

“The problem grew bigger because Barbakh was a member of the Palestinian security services,” Barhoom says.

In backroom meetings, the sheikhs from the Barbakh tribe and Hamas and Fateh leaders tried to defuse the crisis and reached a deal by sunset.

The sides agreed the Hamas members would offer an apology to the Barbakhs and the bands tucked their guns away. The fight was graded down to tribal and the political parties walked away, happy they had averted a bloodbath.

Limping outside his home, Barbakh, who wears a black beard, vented angrily about Hamas’ continued nighttime checkpoints on the streets of Rafah.

“I refused to stop at their checkpoints because they are not the police. They are only masked men,” the young man says to nods of approval from a dozen relatives, many of whom identified themselves as Fateh followers.

“They are out on the street because they want to demonstrate they are the real authority.”

His cousin Abdul Rauf Barbakh, a 32-year-old Fateh leader, with a rolling belly and thinning grey hair, warned that apology or not the Barbakhs would not just forget.

“Our family can strike Hamas. If any member of our family is killed or hurt, we will do it.

“The Palestinian Authority is working for a truce and has relations with Hamas, but as a family we don’t work with Hamas for anything.”


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.