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Sunday, August 19, 2007
'PA failed to keep Hamas from forming West Bank cells'

'PA failed to keep Hamas from forming West Bank cells'
Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 19, 2007
www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1187502417353&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

The Palestinian Authority security forces have failed to thwart Hamas's
attempts to create new armed cells in the West Bank, a senior PA security
official here admitted Sunday.

The official told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin
al-Kassam, had become "very active" in some parts of the West Bank, despite
a crackdown order by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas against the group.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said one of Abbas's close confidants, former
PA security chief Jibril Rajoub, recently held secret talks in Damascus with
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in a bid to resolve the Hamas-Fatah crisis.

Rajoub, who is being mentioned as a possible successor to Abbas, also held
talks in Cairo with top Egyptian political and security officials on ways of
ending the crisis. Fatah officials have strongly denied that they were
engaged in any form of talks with Hamas.

The official revealed that the Hamas gunmen were working in coordination
with other armed Palestinian groups, including ones belonging to Fatah, the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad.

"We are very worried about what's happening in the West Bank, especially in
Nablus, where Izaddin al-Kassam appears to have resumed its activities after
a long lull," the official said. "In recent weeks the group has been
launching almost daily attacks on Israeli military patrols . particularly in
the northern West Bank."

PA security forces have rounded up nearly 200 Hamas activists in the West
Bank since Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. But the majority of
the detainees are not linked to Hamas's armed wing.

"We are going after the wrong guys," the official noted. "We are detaining
journalists, university students and low-level political operatives.
Meanwhile, Izaddin al-Kassam is establishing secret cells and acquiring more
weapons."

The PA security forces have also failed to gather sufficient intelligence
about Hamas's attempts to recruit West Bank Palestinians to its paramilitary
Executive Force. PA officials are convinced that Hamas is secretly trying to
establish an Executive Force in the West Bank as a first step toward
overthrowing Abbas's regime.

PA security officials claimed earlier this month that they had uncovered a
Hamas cell in the Bethlehem area whose members had received instructions
from the Hamas leadership in Syria to establish an Executive Force. The
13-member cell was headed by Hamas activist Nader Muhammed Jubran.

But after three weeks of questioning, Jubran and his cohorts were released
from prison. A PA security commander in Bethlehem told the Post that the men
were released because of lack of evidence. He pointed out that the PA
security forces would continue to follow the movements of the cell members
to make sure that they did not pursue their plans to establish a security
force.

"The cell was operating on direct instructions from the top Hamas leadership
in Damascus," the security commander said. "Some of the Hamas men have been
receiving assistance from Fatah gunmen, and this is very worrying."

He revealed that a cell belonging to Izaddin al-Kassam was behind the
assassination attempt on Col. Idris Ja'bari, the commander of the PA
security forces in Halhoul, near Hebron, earlier this month. Ja'bari was
critically wounded when gunmen opened fire at him outside his home. He had
been responsible for the detention of scores of Hamas activists in his area
over the past two months.

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