Will Yassin's Death Weaken Palestinian War or Spur New Fighting Unity?
March 22, 2004
DEBKAfile Special Report
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has fired the Israel-Palestinian war up to a new plane. The targeted assassination of Hamas founder, leader and moving spirit, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Monday, March 22, was the prime ministers thunderous reply to the critics who argue that his disengagement strategy would hand the Gaza Strip over to Hamas control.
It signals his determination to purge Gaza of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists ahead its evacuation. Yassins death is but the precursor to liquidating the violent movement he founded in 1987 to "cleanse" Middle East of Jewish sovereignty and replace it with an Islamic republic.
This cleanout of Hamas strength will take time. Until it is done, Israel cannot pull out of the Gaza Strip or even begin the process of disengagement.
Sharons action was addressed in particular to Washington. He was irked by the sharp message he received from the White House this week, which DEBKAfiles political sources reveal here for the first time:
It consisted of eight main points which are paraphrased hereunder:
1. After listening to Sharons aides Dov Weisglass and other emissaries, we find that there is no properly-formed disengagement and evacuation plan. The primes proposals are at best, an agenda.
2. We dont know what Israel wants. We are confused. Weisglass and Eiland (head of Israels national security council in the prime ministers office) speak in two languages.
3. If you wanted us to endorse your plan why did you publish it before discussing it with us? We might have offered observations.
4. We must ask the prime minister if (as part of his disengagement plan) he is prepared to hand over to the Palestinians all the routes to the Gaza Strip. We understand that what is proposed is action to remove only the civilian population. That is okay, but dont call it disengagement. Evacuating Gush Katif and redeploying Israeli forces around the Gaza Strip would only create a sort of bull pen and leave Israeli responsible for its Palestinian population.
5. According to our information, not a single Israeli settler was killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003. So why the sudden rush?
6. After trying to bring some order to what we (the White House) are told by Weisglass, it appears that you (Israel) are seeking our backing for the British security plan aimed at Palestinian security forces bringing order to the streets of the Gaza Strip at the same time as Israel cracks down on Hamas and removes Jewish settlers. We dont necessarily accept this plan but it least it has a certain innate logic. What we dont understand is whether all air, land and sea approaches to the Strip will be laid open to Hamas and the foreign terrorists present there.
7. (DEBKAfiles analysts rate this as the key paragraph in the White House message to Sharon). If what you intend is to prevent the activation of Gaza port and airfield and cushion the Philadelphi highway route (running parallel to the border with Egypt) with a one-kilometer wide buffer strip and at the same time leave people free to move between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and allow Palestinians to work in Israel what would be different from the present situation? We dont see any difference.
8. What we do see is that your plan or the talk abound it means that instead of dialogue with Arafat or Dahlan, you will have to address the Hamas.
DEBKAfiles Washington sources report that the White House shot off the message to Jerusalem after accepting the finding of the National Security Council that Sharons proposals for disengagement and removal of settlements are unreal and his actions are confused and governed by the pressures of the investigations against him and his sons and his falling popular ratings as registered in the latest American-backed samplings. Sharons visit to Washington, reportedly postponed again until after Passover, has been consequently removed from the presidential engagement diary in the foreseeable future.
It was in the shadow of this message from the White House that the prime minister brushed off hostile questions on his disengagement intentions from his Likud ministers Sunday, March 21. Finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, one of the few present who was aware of the American rejection, disappointed the critics by refraining from turning against the prime minister. He simply posed three conditions for accepting Sharons strategy:
Before pulling out of the Gaza Strip, Israel must finish building its West Bank security fence to include also the main Jewish settlement blocs, Modiin and the Modiin-Jerusalem Highway 443; the Bush administration must formally repudiate the Palestinian right of return demand for the 1948 refugees and Israeli must retain control of international crossing points and its freedom of self-defense to fight terrorists everywhere.
After the thunderbolt of the Hamas leaders death, what happens next will hinge very much on how two quarters react: First, the Hamas leaders, who will have to decide quickly how to channel the fury of their following, whether against Israel or against the Palestinian Authority. If the latter, the fundamentalist group would have to drive all the way in their takeover of the Gaza Strip by kicking the PA and its head Yasser Arafat out of the territory. If the former, the Hamas would opt for a coalition with Arafat and his terrorist arms to wage an all-out war of revenge against Israel. In that case, Hamas would seek guarantees from Arafat for a power-sharing arrangement in Palestinian government.
Before Yassins death, the Hamas was moving in the opposite direction, boycotting the PA and Arafat and accepting collaboration only with his Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades for suicide attacks against Israel.
The other party to watch now is Arafat himself. He may decide to take advantage of Hamas disarray and move in on the Gaza Strip and Gaza City where his people have been pushed to the sidelines in recent weeks. It is doubtful that he can muster the strength for a takeover on this scale. He may therefore hold up Palestinian unity as the crisis watchword and call on Hamas remnants to join forces with PA security units to beat Israel into the ground.
This Sharon government would then be confronted with a Palestinian front fighting for a single slogan: We are all Hamas! This would signal a new stage in the Israel-Palestinian war. http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=810
posted on 03/22/2004 10:08:33 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
PARIS, 18 Mar. (IPS) Iranian and international press and human rights organizations urged Iranian clerical authorities to free Mr. Ensafali Hedayat, an Iranian independent journalist jailed more than two months ago on unspecific charges.
The 51 years-old reporter was arrested early on January after his return from Berlin, where he had covered the meeting of Iranian Republicans, attended by hundreds of Iranians, including a dozen who had come from Iran and several other journalists, most of them working for foreign-based Iranian media.
Since then, not only the authorities have kept Mr. Hedayat in jail without giving any serious reason for his detention, but also local media of both sides of the leadership have been conspicuously silent on his fate, despite several letters wrote to the President and other officials by his young daughter, asking them to provide explanation or inform the public about possible charges.
According to informed friend and family sources, Mr. Hedayat is seriously ill and needs urgent medical treatments, but the authorities refuses to provide him needed care, including visit by specialists.
An independent journalist covering Iranian political and social scene for local and foreign-based media like the Prague-based Radio Farda, Mr. Hedayat had been systematically vindicated by the authorities, forcing domestic newspapers not take any article from him.
As a result, he had sold his small apartment in Tehran and left for Tabriz, the capital city of the Eastern Azarbaijan Province, where he lives in a one room flat with his wife and two children.
Informed sources say though his contribution to Radio Farda might be one of the reasons of the authorities anger with Mr. Hedayat, but what has made the rulers so determined in humiliating him is his straight forward and factual reporting, including his outstanding coverage of the strong earthquake that hit the historical city of Bam last year, killing more than 46.000 people, detailing the shortcomings of the Iranian authorities in dealing with the tragedy.
"Why this silence. Why this void. Why no one answers. Why everybody seems to take his distance in this nation from the case of my father, Ensafali Hedayat, a courageous and proud journalist?" wrote Ms. Fatemeh Hedayat in a moving open letter to the Iranian nation.
Iranian media except a few internet sites based outside Iran have refused to publish Ms. Hedayat letters.
"Im asking why my father is in jail and nobody answers. Im asking what my father has done and no one say anything. But Im proud of my father. He is a free, courageous and strong man. He would stand up and shake hands of his countrymen. No matter he is in prison, deprived of all rights, but he is in the right path and his pencil writing the truth, the plights and the pains of his countrymen without fear, nor favour", she continued.
She also confirmed in the letter that his father is seriously ill, suffering from bleeding and infections due to bad prison conditions, but "no one pays any attention".
In letters and faxes to Iranian leaders, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi, the leader of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Khatami, the President and Ayatollah Mahmood Hashemi Shahroodi, the Head of the Judiciary, the Rome-based Association of Iranian Journalists Abroad (AIJA), joined by the international press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres called on them to free Mr. Hedayat "immediately and unconditionally" or take "all the consequences".
"Mr. Hedayat is in prison since early January and despite all inquiries, the authorities of the Islamic Republic have refused to provide any answer on the charges against the journalist", both AIJA and Reporters Without Borders said.
For its part, the executive committees of the Iranian Republicans also send a petition to the Iranian authorities, protesting to the "arbitrary" arrest of Mr. Hedayat, whom, it said, had done nothing wrong but to cover the meeting "as did several others of his colleagues".
According to the RSF, the Islamic Republic is one of the worlds largest prison for journalists and its leader, Ayatollah Khamenehi, "one of the worlds most dangerous predator of press freedom".
Since 1999, Iranian clerical authorities, acting on orders from Mr. Khamenehi, have shut more than 120 publications and arrested tens of leading Iranian journalist, commentators and editors, some of them still behind bars, including Hoda Saber, Taqi Rahmani, Siamak Poorzand, Reza Alijani and Iraj Jamshidi, but also lawyer Naser Zarafshan, Researcher and writer Abbas Abdi, Islamist reformer Hojjatoleslam Hasan Yusefi Eshkevar and university professor Hashem Aqajari. http://www.iran-press-service.com/articles_2004/Mar_04/ensafali_hedayat_18304.htm
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