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Who was Jamal Mansour?

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  • Josh Pollack
    Ha aretz August 1, 2001 Analysis / A fire s been lit and will rage for a long time by Amos Harel
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2001
      August 1, 2001
      Analysis / A fire's been lit and will rage for a long time
      by Amos Harel


      An Israel Defense Forces officer with extensive involvement in events in the
      territories under his belt claimed last night that the full meaning of the
      Nablus operation had yet to be fully digested by Israelis.

      "This wasn't just another assassination," he said. "And Jamal Mansour was
      not just another wanted man. He was more senior than all the other activists
      killed till now. This was, perhaps, the harshest strike by Israel since the
      beginning of the Intifada. Seen through Palestinian eyes, the assassination
      was even more serious than the killing of Yihye Ayash, the engineer."

      According to security service sources, Mansour was the most senior Hamas
      operative in the West Bank. Up until a few years ago, he was considered the
      number-two man to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the Islamic
      movement in the territories. Jamal Salim Damoni, another activist killed in
      the attack, was almost as senior as Mansour.

      "Someone like Mahmud Abu Hanud [one of the wanted men in the territories]
      comes and goes," the security source said. "If you manage to kill him,
      others will take his place; but someone like Mansour takes years to

      From Israel's point of view, striking at Mansour and Damoni was a way of
      tearing the veil of political respectability from the face of Hamas. For the
      last decade, the political leadership of the Islamic movement maintained
      extensive contacts with the organization's military wing, the Azadin al
      Kassam brigades. There was, ostensibly, a clear division of duties: The
      sheikhs and politicians appeared at rallies and gave interviews to the
      media; the military activists took care of the attacks.

      But the Israeli defense establishment has long claimed that the two branches
      of the organization are, in fact, one and the same. Yassin's aide, Salah
      Shahade, coordinates all the attacks in the Gaza Strip; while in the West
      Bank, Damoni and Mansour, in particular, were the ones who had planned the
      operations and had also appeared in the media. Neither of them had had blood
      on their hands personally, but they had identified the potential suicide
      bombers, prepared them for their missions and pointed them at the targets.

      Only once before in the current round of hostilities has Israel struck at a
      political activists and claimed that he was, in fact, a military strategist
      - Dr. Thabet Thabet, head of the Tanzim in Tul Karm.

      Yesterday's action is almost tantamount to a possible attack on Marwan
      Barghouti, the Fatah chief in the West Bank. Sources in the Shin Bet
      security service say the lesson to be learned is clear - individuals
      involved in murdering Israelis are now targets. Barghouti knows it, and so
      did Mansour. Following the Dolphinarium massacre, Mansour had been
      surrounded by bodyguards armed with M-16s and flak jackets. At least one of
      his bodyguards was killed yesterday.

      The IDF and Shin Bet aren't under the delusion that they can prevent all
      terror attacks. Assassinations, together with other operations, are designed
      to generate an obstructive effect on the terror groups: Hitting their
      leadership hinders the effectiveness of the organizations, while killing
      bomb experts prevents professional bomb-making, as illustrated by the failed
      car bombs of recent months.

      But the Palestinian response is now predictable. After Ayash was killed,
      five suicide bombers were sent to Israel, leaving dozens dead in their wake.
      This time, many more will be sent; and mortar fire on the settlements around
      Nablus won't come as a surprise to anyone.

      Last night, a fire was lit in the territories and it's certain to blaze for
      quite some time.

      Once a moderate

      In the mid-90s, Mansour, then 34, and Damoni, then 36, initiated a move to
      transform Hamas into a political party that would take part in mainstream
      Palestinian politics, seeking seats in the legislative council and around
      the cabinet table. As part of this effort, the two asked to be interviewed
      by Ha'aretz.

      In the October 1994 interview, they voiced moderate views and spoke of
      negotiating a truce between Israel and Hamas. They also called on the
      Israelis and Palestinians to avoid attacks on civilians and prevent
      bloodshed, saying: "The need to reach mutual understandings in the area
      requires us to prevent attacks on civilians on both sides."

      They did not, at the time, want to go on record as Hamas members, fearing
      they would be arrested - Nablus was still under Israeli control. Off the
      record, however, they said that they were among the leadership of the
      political movement of the Islamic organization and explained that they
      wanted to turn Hamas into a political party.

      Asked at the time if he supported the military arm of Hamas, Mansour
      replied: "I believe in the definition of terror as it appears in Benjamin
      Netanyahu's book - a military action against civilians with a political
      goal. That is terror, unless the civilians are fighters bearing arms and
      there is a state of war between the nations ... The problem is the harming
      of civilians. I am opposed to harming civilians because I believe such
      actions are against Islamic law. I am opposed to it, unless it is a
      reaction, as is the case between Hezbollah and Israel."

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