Jordan accuses Hamas of gun-running

PA FM's visit cancelled after accusations of smuggling weapons through Jordan.

A-zahar close up 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
A-zahar close up 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A crisis between Jordan and Hamas erupted Wednesday following allegations the group had smuggled weapons into the kingdom. Hamas leaders strongly denied the charges made by the Jordanian government and accused it of succumbing to Israeli and American pressure by canceling a planned visit to Amman by Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar. Zahar was expected to visit on Wednesday, but the government announced that he was not welcome because Hamas had smuggled and stored weapons in the country. The allegations, which surprised Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, was made by government spokesman Nasser Judeh hours before Zahar's expected arrival. Judeh said Jordanian authorities had discovered weapons, including bombs and rockets, which had been smuggled into Jordan by a terrorist group affiliated with Hamas. He did not give further details. "The government considers this as proof that Hamas was exercising a double-standard approach in dealing with Jordan," Judeh said. Hamas leaders responded with fury to the allegations and the cancellation of Zahar's visit. "Hamas rejects and condemns these lies, which were used to justify the cancellation of Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar's visit to Jordan," the organization said in a statement. "We were surprised by these false allegations and wish to stress that the pressure and incitement will only strengthen our resolve." Expressing deep regret over the Jordanian decision, the Hamas statement said that Jordan was the only Arab country that had bowed to Israeli and US pressure to boycott the new PA cabinet. "We have never targeted Jordan or any other Arab or Islamic country," it said. "We are keen on maintaining good relations with all the Arabs and Muslims." Adnan Asfour, a Hamas leader in the West Bank, also said the decision to cancel Zahar's visit was the result of Israeli and American pressure. "They want to isolate the new Palestinian government and punish the Palestinian people for their democratic choice," he said. He also denied that Hamas was interfering in Jordanian internal affairs. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, expressed "astonishment" at the Jordanian position and accused Jordan of incitement. "Hamas does not carry out any activities in Jordan," he said. "These allegations are harmful and are intended to incite against the cabinet and the Palestinian people." Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the PA government, said he was unaware of any attempt to smuggle weapons into Jordan. "We are very sorry because of the decision to cancel Zahar's visit," he said. "We were hoping that the visit would take place normally and without any obstacles." Some Hamas officials told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to cancel Zahar's visit was actually taken at the request of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Amman earlier this week. "We are certain that Abbas was the one who asked the Jordanians not to receive Zahar," said one Hamas leader. "Abbas and some of his aides are continuing to incite the Arab world against Hamas." Another Hamas official told the Post that Abbas was also behind Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit's decision not to meet with Zahar during his recent visit to Cairo. "The Egyptians told us at the last minute they would not hold political talks with Zahar because he's not authorized to deal with foreign affairs," said the official. "This is an absurd argument because what else is a foreign minister supposed to deal with? Collecting garbage?" Relations between Hamas and Jordan have been poor since 1999, when five commercial offices in Amman registered under the names of Hamas leaders were closed, several of its members were detained and arrest warrants were issued for Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal, Musa Abu Marzook, Sami Khater, Izzat Rishek and Ibrahim Ghosheh.