2. Yassin Posthumously Unmasked as Muslim Brotherhood Leader
The deaths of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his attendants in Gaza City generated at least one far-reaching effect that Israeli military planners of his assassination may not have foreseen.
The first surprise landed five hours after the assassination.
At 11 a.m. on Monday, March 22, Mohammed Akef, the General Guide (or leader) of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, published a notice of condolence for the death of Yassin. A single line in the notice caused a sensation which swirled not only around the Hamas rank and file, and Palestinians on the West Bank, Gaza Strip and overseas, but also through the entire Muslim world and the intelligence services monitoring Palestinian and Muslim terror.
The line was: “I mourn the General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood-Palestine.”
Until that moment, no one had known Yassin had carried this or any other title. That he disguised his elevated standing in the Muslim Brotherhood raises suggestive points concerning the forces which secretly manipulate the Palestinian and Muslim terrorist movements:
Hamas members believed they belonged to a Palestinian terror group fighting for a national cause. They have suddenly discovered they were acting on behalf of wire-pullers in the Muslim Brotherhood and were unknowingly the alien group’s operational arm in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Not modest but politically calculating
From 1987, when Yassin was freed from an Israeli jail and rose to eminence as founder of Hamas, he steadfastly refused any official title. His refusal was attributed to modesty and the wish to highlight his organization’s “successes” – Hamas early on began targeting Israel servicemen for abduction and murder, made suicide bombing its weapon of choice.
The truth emerged only after his death. The sheikh, paralyzed from the age of 12 in a sporting accident, already carried a secret honorarium and preferred to dispense with a public one. The informal “spiritual leader” designation enabled him to wash his hands of responsibility for terrorist action, while relieving him of the need to officially condemn any of the group’s murderous operations against Israelis.
Yet another myth was shattered by the Hamas leader’s death. Yassin always took care to limit Hamas' sphere of terrorist operations to the Palestinian-Israeli arena. The rest of the Middle East and elsewhere were kept outside its orbit. Two exceptions were made to this rule: Shoe bomber Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an American Airlines plane flying from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001, learned how to pack his sneakers with explosives in the Jabalya refugee camp of Gaza City several months before he launched his abortive attempt. He stayed at the home of Nabil Akal, a top commander of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.
US authorities made no mention of the Hamas link during Reid’s trial – he was sentenced to life imprisonment – so as not to embarrass Mohammed Dahlan, then the Palestinian Authority’s security chief in Gaza. Dahlan had to have been aware of the presence of a British Muslim in Jabalya.
Hamas also was responsible for the suicide bombing of April 30, 2003, at Mike’s Place, a Tel Aviv jazz club near the American Embassy. Two Britons of Pakistani descent, Asif Mohammed Hanif and Oman Khan Sharif, were responsible for that attack. Three people were killed when Hanif blew himself up. Sharif apparently had cold feet, or his bomb belt malfunctioned, and he fled into the Mediterranean where he drowned. But their real mission was to blow up the embassy. US, Israeli and British intelligence have conspired to hide that fact.
We may never know for certain whether the Muslim Brotherhood leader’s unmasking of the dead Hamas leader’s true face was intentional or not. Some of our intelligence sources and experts on Islamic fundamentalism believed at first it was a slip of the tongue. But the feeling is slowly gaining ground that Akel let the cat out of the bag deliberately in the hope of precipitating two developments:
That Hamas would extend its warfare to American targets. This, the bereaved group announced it would do – and not only in the Middle East but also in the United States.
That Al Qaeda would come out in the open on its ties with Hamas. In its written statements and released tapes, Osama bin Laden’s organization had until then omitted mention of the Palestinian Islamist group. Suddenly, on March 22, the Abu Hafs Brigades, generally seen as synonymous with al Qaeda, vowed to avenge the sheikh’s death and strike out at the great tyrant of the century – America, and its allies.
Yassin’s passing voided the ban on terrorist action by Hamas outside the Palestinian-Israeli arena and brought into the open al Qaeda’s connections with Hamas through the Muslim Brotherhood – ties that were evident after the Richard Reid episode but unacknowledged until March 22.