Zahar: Hamas will pursue 'Israeli spies'

Says group used US aid to buy arms; warns of bombs in West Bank struggle.

dahlan tough 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
dahlan tough 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas will go after "Israeli spies" in Gaza and might use bombs in its struggle with Fatah in the West Bank, a leading Hamas hardliner in Gaza was quoted as saying Saturday. The comments by Mahmoud Zahar, a founding member of Hamas, suggested that his group's offer of amnesty to Fatah members was not ironclad and that Hamas would try to destabilize the Fatah-controlled West Bank. Zahar, who is close to the Hamas military wing, spoke in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. His comments were published on the magazine's Web site.
  • Hamas: Fatah gave information to Israel Zahar is widely seen as one of the key players in Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza in mid-June. He staunchly opposed the brief government coalition between Hamas and Fatah and leads the movement's hard-line wing. In response to the takeover, the security forces of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas arrested scores of Hamas activists in the West Bank, and Fatah-allied gunmen seized others, in some cases shooting them in the legs. Zahar said Hamas loyalists in the West Bank would defend themselves in the same way they had targeted Israel during years of the Palestinian uprising - with bombs and attacks, according to the magazine. He said Hamas would also go after "Israeli spies," an apparent reference to Fatah loyalists close to former Gaza strongman Muhammad Dahlan, who now lives in the West Bank. Hamas has repeatedly denounced Dahlan as a traitor because he favors dialogue with Israel and the US and has participated in many high-level meetings with Western officials. Immediately after the takeover, Hamas had offered an amnesty to Fatah activists and members of the security forces, but Zahar's threat seemed to undermine that promise. Zahar was quoted as saying that Hamas was prepared to "speak with the Israelis" in order to reopen Gaza's border crossings, closed since the five-day battle that led to Hamas rule in Gaza. He warned of chaos if Israel did not relent. "People wouldn't starve to death before violently storming the borders," he told the magazine. "Israel also loses $2 million in business income for every day the border stays closed." But he ruled out political negotiations. Zahar claimed that Hamas had used US aid to purchase weapons, adding that the group possessed "huge stockpiles" of arms. The Hamas hardliner bragged that he had carried two suitcases of cash from Iran, for a total of $42 million, into Gaza. However, the border is now closed, and he did not explain how money could find its way into Gaza in the future.