Behind the Scenes of Yassin Strike

The opportunity to remove the entire top strategic level of the Hamas terror group presented itself by chance on the day of Mahmoud Abbas’s resignation as Palestinian prime minister – Saturday, September 6. That morning, Israel’s defense minister Shaul Mofaz, army, air force and intelligence and Shin Beit chiefs reported to prime minister Ariel Sharon that eight top Hamas leaders were meeting later at the home of one of their number Marwan Abu Ras, a director at the Islamic University of Gaza, to consider how to beat the Israeli air and ground blockade on the Gaza Strip and carry out a fresh wave of terror assaults.
The Hamas meeting was also scheduled to discuss how to deal with “Israeli collaborators”. debkafile‘s intelligence sources report that this is a Hamas euphemism for the preventive security officers under the command of Mohammed Dahlan, internal security minister and partner of Mahmoud Abbas. An officer called Samar Mashrawi was their chief target. Before the meeting, Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was heard to threaten his men would “take the law into our own hands against collaborators.”
The timing of the threat was significant. By then, it was common knowledge that Mahmoud Abbas had been forced to resign. Yassin’s threat made it clear that while Arafat dealt the final blow to the Palestinian prime minister in Ramallah, Yassin in Gaza City was preparing to take out Abu Mazen’s senior associate, Dahlan. That conspiracy lent added urgency to the Israeli decision to strike at the Hamas planning meeting.
Knowing that their movements and telephone lines were under close Israeli surveillance, the Hamas participants set the meeting up with the help of a network of runners set up by Abu Ras from Islamic university students.
The proposal put before Sharon was to take out the entire Hamas leadership group by dropping a single from the air on the venue of their meeting, the private home of Abu Ras.
The prime minister had not forgotten the international outcry over the one-ton bomb that killed a senior Hamas operative on July 22, but also caused many Palestinian casualties including children. He therefore approved the operation on Saturday, but stipulated the use of a 250-kg bomb to limit the collateral damage even though, the military experts explained, the effectiveness of a smaller bomb was much less certain. They proposed instead a missile barrage, which Sharon also rejected.
And so it happened that the 250-kg bomb dropped a few minutes after 16:00 IST hit the meeting room seconds after Hamas leaders had moved out of range. They all survived the attack and threatened swift vengeance.
debkafile reported earlier on September 6:
Israel’s failed attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin Saturday, September 6, had two objectives:
1. To warn Yasser Arafat not to follow up his purge of the Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas with a fresh wave of terror which he has been preparing behind the screen of Abbas’s 100-day tenure. If he does, he and his top men risks sharing Yassin’s fate as a target. Israel has the intelligence information it needs as well as special bombs for carrying out its threat. The message will have registered even though Yassin escaped this time by leaving the room seconds before the raid.
2. To divert Israeli public opinion from the Abu Mazen resignation and the failure it spells for the Sharon government’s peace-and-war strategy which relied heavily on the Washington-backed Palestinian prime minister’s survival. By raiding the Hamas planning conference, the Sharon government was emphasizing that the fight against Hamas goes on.
At the same time, most security experts consulted by debkafile point out that the strike against the Hamas leadership only points up the absence of any effective Israeli military action till now against Arafat and his Fatah-Tanzim-Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades chiefs. One complained: “I know of no government anywhere who would stand for dozens of terrorists five minutes from the prime minister’s residence preparing deadly terrorist strikes against the national capital.”
He was referring to the Bethlehem district which abuts on Jerusalem and was turned over to Palestinian security control six weeks ago. As Israel hits Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists of all stripes are working night and day in Bethlehem, Ramalllah, Jenin and Tulkarm, to retaliate.

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