Hamas’ Missteps Set Scene for Yassin Assassination

The same mistakes that set the scene for the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin are now tying the hands of his organization for carrying out its sworn revenge mega-strike against his Israeli killers.
The funeral procession that accompanied his coffin to burial on Monday March 22 was not quite as impressive or frenetic as Hamas leaders would have liked. The Arab world saw more impressive turnouts after the deaths of Egypt’s Gemal Abdul Nasser in 1972, Syria’s Hafez Assad in 2000 and King Hussein of Jordan a year later. Aziz Rantissi, senior Hamas spokesman and candidate to succeed the dead sheikh, would have preferred to delay the funeral until later in the week to gain time for staging a full-dress Palestinian national event and preparing some spin on the succession struggle. However, Ismail Hanya rushed the preparations forward and the result was a plain plywood box carried aloft without much ceremony and a foreshortened funeral, over before the masses could rally on the streets of the Arab world to voice their anger at the assassination.
The spin came a day later in the form of an implausible claim that Hamas would choose its next leader in a democratic election – a virtual contradiction in terms.
Hanya had good reason to hurry the ceremonial along. He was anxious to draw a thick line between the before and after of the episode so as to divert attention from the errors of judgment of which he and fellow Hamas leaders were guilty and for which Yassin paid with his life.
For one, debkafile‘s intelligence sources report that the heads of Hamas did not believe Israel would actually send tanks into Gaza Strip Palestinian refugee camps. But they were wrong. In the week prior to Yassin’s killing, Israeli tanks struck five times – in Nuseyrat, al Bureij, twice in Rafah and once in Abasan near Khan Younes, accounting for 70 dead operatives, a heavy loss in relation to the size of Hamas.
Before that, On March 14, the double suicide bombing of Israel’s Mediterranean Ashdod Port that left 10 Israelis dead was perceived by Hamas as a fiasco. The months of intelligence work, complex pre-planning and funds invested were designed to produce an Israeli death toll running into hundreds. And worse, for a mini-operation, Hamas threw to the winds the valuable intelligence secret of how to fool Israeli scanners at border crossings. This was probably obtained from the Hizballah who got it from Elhanan Tannenbaum the returned captive who has been under interrogation since his released by the Hizballah.
Having discovered the chink in its security, Israel has stopped it up.
In the same fateful week, debkafile‘s intelligence sources report, the Hamas leadership lost its last western intelligence contact, Alistair Crook from the UK, who promised the Foreign Office in London that he would rope the Hamas into the joint “British Security Project” set up in the Gaza Strip with the object of bringing law and order to the streets of the territory. However, Crook got nowhere with the Hamas and the Foreign Office ordered him to give up and leave.
Even more disastrously, the Hamas did not believe the Israeli government’s vow, published after the Ashdod attack, to target all ranks of its organization. They satisfied themselves with routine safety precautions instead of going to ground as they did six weeks ago. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin paid the price for this imperturbability. He stayed at home as usual except when he went to the mosque in full view of Israel’s eyes in the sky, which disproved the story Hamas put about that he had moved house.
It was only after his death that the Hamas perceived they had been treated to the second half of Israel’s massive 2002 operation on the West Bank in the wake of the Netanya Park Hotel massacre, an operation aimed at cutting terrorist capabilities down to the bone. They found themselves left with insufficient resources for wreaking the revenge they craved and mounting a striking mega-terror attack that would bring Israel to its knees.
This realization dawned on them too late after too many losses:
1. The Ashdod Port strike had blown for good their most important method of smuggling terrorists past heavy security – a cargo container. Months will be needed before they can come up with a new dodge.
2. Hamas lacks the organization for operations outside the Gaza Strip. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report Hamas can field only one competent operative on the West Bank, Ahmed Bader. But even he is hardly active after lying low for several months in the Ramallah district to avoid the long arm of Israeli security. He is therefore not the man to orchestrate mega attacks.
3. It is no good counting on Arafat’s Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades for an operation that will spill the blood of hundreds of Israelis. This group is not capable of much beyond sending suicide bombers with explosive belts against buses, cafes and malls – nothing more impressive.
To find terrorists capable of large-scale massacres, the group was forced to turn to major outside terrorist players. Hizballah and al Qaeda have therefore been asked to perform expeditiously against an Israeli or Jewish target overseas. Security has been stepping up in all parts of Israel and increased for Israeli embassies aboard and Jewish synagogues and schools.
Hamas has no real overseas resources – except in Syria. The Hamas plea has accordingly been addressed to the Hizballah, al Qaeda and the Islamic Republic of Iran, all of whom function in many countries and know how to plant agents in Israel.
The question now is does such an operation suit the agenda of any of these partners in terror. Israel will soon find out.

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