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Discussion in 'Israel and Palestine' started by Palestinian Jew, Apr 26, 2004.

  1. Palestinian Jew
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    Palestinian Jew Member

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    Israel Identifies New Secret Hamas Leader
    1 hour, 43 minutes ago

    By MARK LAVIE, Associated Press Writer

    JERUSALEM - Israel identified the new, secret Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip (news - web sites) as Mahmoud Zahar, a 53-year-old Egyptian-trained physician, and signaled Monday he won't be targeted if the militant group halts attacks on Israelis.


    AP Photo


    AFP
    Slideshow: Mideast Conflict




    Hamas, however, refused to reveal the name of its leader for fear he will be assassinated like his two predecessors.


    Also Monday, Israeli troops killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy and seriously wounded a 15-year-old girl near Israeli settlements in Gaza. The girl, described as mentally retarded, had wandered into a restricted area.


    The Palestinian attorney general said he would speed up prosecution of dozens of suspected collaborators with Israel and search for those who helped Israel kill Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi on April 17. Fifty-three alleged informers are in Palestinian custody awaiting trial.


    Rantisi, the successor of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin, himself assassinated by Israel, had taken extreme precautions, but Israel spotted him when he made a rare visit home and killed him in with a missile attack.


    Hamas declared after Rantisi's death that it would not disclose the name of his replacement. However, speculation centered on Zahar — Rantisi's deputy, Yassin's personal physician and for years one of the most visible and uncompromising Hamas spokesmen.


    Three Israeli newspapers on Monday identified Zahar as the group's new leader. Several days ago, Zahar told reporters Hamas would not disclose the name of the new leader but did not deny he had the title.


    Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, told the Yediot Ahronot daily the new Hamas leader had inherited the post "automatically" and reluctantly accepted the position. Yaalon also signaled Israel would avoid attacking him as long as the group remains quiet.


    "He doesn't want it, and he is apparently avoiding making decisions, and he is apparently avoiding terrorism," Yaalon said. "Anyone who doesn't use terrorism against us, we do not deal with."


    Yaalon did not identify the Hamas leader, but military officials said he was referring to Zahar. The officials said it is impossible to identify the leader with certainty because of Hamas' fluid leadership structure.


    Zahar has escaped two Israeli attempts on his life, most recently in September when his eldest son and a bodyguard were killed. Zahar rejects any settlement with Israel and compromise with the Palestinian Authority (news - web sites).


    In Washington, the CIA (news - web sites) declined to comment on whether Zahar is the new Hamas leader.


    In the Gaza violence, a 14-year-old boy was shot in the back by Israeli army fire and died, Palestinian medical workers said. The boy was among several youths who had climbed sand dunes to watch soldiers deployed around the Israeli settlement of Nissanit in northern Gaza.


    Witnesses and Palestinian security officials said the boys were about 700 yards from an Israeli watchtower when the teen was killed.


    Military officials said soldiers used non-lethal means to disperse stone throwers near a settlement and did not know about a boy who was shot.


    Medical workers also said a 15-year-old, mentally handicapped girl was seriously wounded after approaching the Israeli settlement of Morag near the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza.


    Military officials said soldiers saw a woman running toward the settlement in an area off-limits to Palestinians, assumed she was attacking the settlement and opened fire after she ignored calls to stop and warning shots. They said the settlement has been a frequent target of Palestinian militants.





    Morag and the other 20 Jewish settlements in Gaza and Israeli military installations would be removed under Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites)'s "unilateral disengagement" plan. However, Palestinians suspect Sharon's real agenda is to trade the small settlements in Gaza for a permanent hold on most of the West Bank, where 90 percent of Israeli settlers live.

    In an interview Monday on the Al-Arabiya satellite TV channel, former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians should not cooperate with the Israeli withdrawal.

    He also harshly criticized President Bush (news - web sites), who gave backing to the main points of Sharon's plan.

    "America has now no credibility at all," Abbas said.

    On Sunday, members of Sharon's Likud Party vote in a referendum on the withdrawal plan. Polls indicate that the outcome will be close.
     
  2. 5stringJeff
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    5stringJeff Senior Member

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    I say nine days after the next Hamas homicide bomber stirkes.
     

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