The is a media campaign underway that is attempting to wash the blood of three innocent Israeli teens off the hands of the Hamas terrorist organization. Israel and the United States governments claim to possess proof of Hamas’s guilt in the terrorist abduction and murder of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, but both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority urgently seek exoneration to protect the PA-Hamas reconciliation agreement.
“The whole issue of who did this, we don’t know, really, even though Israel managed to punish everybody,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO official, to The New York Times. “Hamas has never been self-effacing. Whenever they carried out an operation, they always declared it and took responsibility.”
Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau, insisted on July 2 that his organization was not behind the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens in the West Bank.
According to Israeli reporter Shlomi Eldar, the “rogue” group responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Eyal (19), Naftali (16) and Gil-Ad (16) were members of the Kawasmeh clan of Hebron.
“Though the clan is known for identifying with Hamas,” wrote Eldar, “it also has a well-earned reputation as a troublemaker. Not only does it tend to ignore the movement’s leaders, it even acts counter to the policies being advocated by the movement.”
No one should be fooled, however.
Hamas’ denial of responsibility is a longtime tradition in Palestinian terrorist operations.
More seriously, however, the tactic of masking responsibility is an important element in the asymmetric warfare conducted by al-Qaida, Hezbollah, the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (attackers of the American embassy in Benghazi) and Hamas. The new “rules” of this asymmetric warfare, defined by some as “Fourth Generation Warfare,” include terrorism, decentralization and relative anonymity.
On June 25, 2006, an Israeli position along the Gaza border was attacked by terrorists who had infiltrated via tunnels.
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and Gilad Schalit was captured. A relatively unknown terrorist group, the Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), was originally blamed. The group actually consisted of a Gaza clan, the Doghmush hamula – affiliated with Hamas – and Hamas quickly took over Schalit’s five-year incarceration and the negotiations for his release in return for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
This Palestinian terrorist pattern provided “plausible deniability” to the PLO and Yasser Arafat in the early 1970s. In September 1971, Fatah secretly established a terrorist unit called “Black September,” according to Israeli historian Benny Morris. The unit used Fatah’s intelligence and agents in Europe to carry out major attacks on Israeli and Western targets, such as the murder of Israeli sportsmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Terrorist leader Salah Khalaf (aka Abu Iyad) wrote in his book Stateless that members of Black September “always denied any ties between their organization and Fatah or the PLO.”
The decentralization of Hamas today is vital to its operations and the survival of its leadership. Hamas chairman Khaled Mashaal currently resides in Qatar; his deputy, Mousa Abu Marzook, is in Cairo; another deputy, Ismail Haniyeh, is Hamas’s “prime minister” in Gaza; and the commander of terrorist operations such as the latest kidnapping plot is Saleh al-Arouri, based in Turkey.
Who is responsible for the kidnapping of the Israeli teens and the rocket barrage from Gaza launched at Israel? None of them, Hamas claims. All of them, Israel insists.
The kidnapping and murder of the three teens is attributed to two men, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, but it is clear that a large, well-disciplined terrorist cell was involved. The cell’s mission required logistical and intelligence support – to provide reconnaissance; to steal and drive Israeli cars to the abduction site; to prepare a hideout and lair; to provide a burial team; and to hide and move the perpetrators. A cellphone recording made within the kidnap car reveals they were talking with at least one more accomplice.
Like the Doghmush clan, Black September, the attackers of the American embassy in Libya or the ISIS conquerors of Mosul, Iraq, the Hamas terrorists in the West Bank are disciplined and directed.
No one should absolve the terrorists’ leadership, even if the lines of authority are temporarily and purposely blurred.
The author is a former senior Israeli diplomat in Washington, DC.