Israel to Offer 300 Top-Flight Terrorists Immunity

An offer of immunity for 300 wanted Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip and West Bank will be put by Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz before Mahmud Abbas’s informal representative Mohammed Dahlan Saturday night, January 29 – according to debkafile‘s exclusive counter-terror sources. The beneficiaries, members of Hamas, al Aqsa Brigdes, Tanzim, Jihad Islami and the Palestinian Fronts, include also wanted murderers. Israel’s provisos are that the men withdraw from active orchestration and execution of terrorist attacks and refrain from crossing into Israel. If caught outside Palestinian territory, they will be put on trial. To show the offer- which is still secret – is serious, on Thursday, Israeli authorities freed Said Massaini of Nablus, described by debkafile‘s military sources as a senior al Aqsa Brigades operative who holds the rank of colonel in the Palestinian security service. He was captured a day earlier in his hideout and released by order of Mofaz.
The expected immunity is the most sweeping allowed in the 12 years since Israel signed the 1993 Oslo peace framework accords.
According to debkafile‘s Palestinian sources, Abu Mazen will offer the men coming out of hiding a fresh start in good jobs with the Palestinian Authority’s administration in the hoping of keeping them away from their former pursuits.
Israel’s policy-makers find this multiple immunity gesture an easier pill to swallow than opening up its jails to the massive release of hardened terrorists “with blood on their hands” – even though they recognize that it does not preclude any future demands.
It follow on the heels of a series of Israeli gestures designed to shore up Mahmoud Abbas’ authority as Palestinian leader and give him every chance to bring an end to the war. They include a halt in the targeted killings of terrorists (which decapitated the Hamas leadership), suspension of military action in Gaza Strip areas handed over to Palestinian security forces, curbs on counter-terror activity in the West Bank, resumption of diplomatic contacts with Palestinian leaders that were frozen after six Israelis were killed in bombing attack at Karni border terminal, the temporary reopening of that terminal Friday for perishable Palestinian goods (strawberries) to reach Israeli markets and a promise to reopen all three border terminals from Gaza to Israel next week. The transfer of security in West Bank towns to Palestinian control is due soon.
Not a single Palestinian terrorist group has responded with a quid pro quo commitment to call off hostilities and terrorist action. On the list of 300 is top West Bank terrorist mastermind Ibrahim Bader, nephew of the Hamas overseas master Khaled Mashal, whom Israel has hunted for four years. He stands to gain his freedom from pursuit even though the disposition of his and his fellows’ logistical resources and weapons stores is still up in the air, along with the dismantling terrorist organizations in toto.
Many Israelis are celebrating the ten-day decline in Qassam and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip while Palestinian security forces take up their new positions. However, no attempt is being made to stop the manufacture of war materials in Gaza workshops or curb the flow of illegal weapons through smuggling tunnels from Sinai.
Abbas says often and encouragingly that the Hamas and Jihad Islami are close to a truce – albeit one adamantly opposed by the Popular Front, al Aqsa Brigades factions and sections of the Gazan Popular Resistance Committees. He explains that he needs Israel’s concessions to “stabilize” the current reduction of hostilities and make it a lasting reality. His people are demanding that his meeting with Sharon, provisionally set for February 8, will be used to proclaim a unilateral Israeli ceasefire. He will then seek a corresponding pledge from the Palestinian groups.
The Israeli government led by prime minister Sharon and Mofaz is taking Abbas unreservedly on trust although it is not clear on whose behalf he and Dahlan speak – the more so since Friday, January 28, when a landslide municipal election victory was announced for Hamas. The terrorist group carried seven out of ten Gaza Strip districts, capturing 75 of the 118 council seats. This is not just a grave blow for Abbas and Dahlan and their ruling Fatah but also for Israel and its efforts to ease the lives of the territory’s population which were supposed to benefit Abbas – not the group that is dedicated to the Jewish state’s destruction.
By their vote, the Gazan masses demonstrated their belief that they owe Israel’s relaxations – not to Israeli goodwill, Abbas’ diplomacy or Dahlan’s credibility, but to Hamas and its implacable Qassam blitz and murderous suicide offensive, which they perceive as having brought the Sharon government to its knees. Dahlan’s failure to bring in the vote for Fatah, although he was credited as the boss of Gaza for more than a decade by Israel and the Americans, is the story of the emperor’s clothes.
If the Fatah wants to avert a similar contretemps at the July 17 elections to the Palestinian legislative council, it will have to invest in much more serious campaigning than the effort mounted by Dahlan in Gaza. The problem here is far more acute: Hamas needs no more than 40 percent of Palestinian parliamentary seats. Together with the smaller rejectionist, pro-terror Palestinian Front factions, the Islamist terrorist group will then be able to exert control over Palestinian government policy from the second half of 2005. If by then, the terrorist groups have not been fully dismantled and disarmed, they will be in a position to resume violent operations under the leadership of 300 top-flight masterminds.

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