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PA Gen. Masri: We can stop Hamas, but won't

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  • Josh Pollack
    Jerusalem Post October 1, 2002 PA Gen. Masri: We can stop Hamas, but won t By MATTHEW GUTMAN
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2002
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      Jerusalem Post
      October 1, 2002
      PA Gen. Masri: We can stop Hamas, but won't


      The Palestinian Authority has the strength but not the will to smash
      terrorist groups and their support networks in the Gaza Strip, a top PA
      security official said yesterday.

      In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, Brig.-Gen. Muhammad
      Masri, head of the Political Security Department at the Palestinian General
      Intelligence Service, said the long-awaited crackdown on Hamas promised by
      former PA interior minister Abdel Razek Yahya will likely never happen.

      As part of a sweeping set of reforms that began in late June, the PA has
      sought both to centralize its myriad security services and to rein in Hamas,
      a group responsible for more than half of all Israeli deaths due to
      terrorist attacks in the past two years of conflict.

      "We have enough men and arms, but not political horizon and no incentive, to
      enter into bloody conflict with other Palestinians," said Masri from his
      office at the PA's GIS building just north of Gaza City.

      The PA security establishment sees no compelling reason to confront either
      Hamas, whose popularity is soaring, or the other Palestinian rejectionist
      groups. For this reason, Masri does not anticipate the ending of terrorist
      attacks in Israel in the near future.

      Taking on Hamas at this juncture, with January's Palestinian elections
      looming, would be political suicide, added the general. "The Palestinian
      street shows great support for Hamas and other groups opposing the PA, so we
      prefer to use other, more democratic methods," he said.

      "Capabilities and principle are two different things. Besides ending the
      occupation, our major goal is not to be labeled collaborators," said Masri.

      For this reason, he added, his men are much more actively engaged in
      protecting themselves -- against both Israel and the opposition groups --
      than they are in breaking the terrorist infrastructure, which many
      Palestinians consider the backbone of the Gaza Strip.

      "Why should we be responsible for security in Tel Aviv," asked Masri, "when
      we have enough trouble protecting our own people against Israel?" For this
      reason, the GIS is not engaged in roundups of suspects, but is attempting to
      dialogue with them.

      According to PA sources, Fatah, which is affiliated with PA Chairman Yasser
      Arafat, was a hairsbreadth away from convincing Hamas to agree to a general
      cease-fire before Israel's assassination of Salah Shehadeh on July 23.

      Part of the reason Hamas's support runs so much deeper than that of the PA,
      noted Masri, is that the organization was active for several years before
      the PLO entered the territories in 1994. Over the years, its support only

      "If 10 years ago it took them a year to recruit a martyr, now they have an
      overflow of volunteers of all ages and both sexes, to such an extent that
      they actually have to turn people away," said Masri.

      Hamas political leader Dr. Mahmoud Zahar scoffed at the notion that dialogue
      could bring an end to the group's "armed resistance." He accused the PA of
      arriving in the territories and diving headlong into corruption, which
      eventually alienated the Palestinian populace.

      Far from working against Hamas, Zahar noted that it was Fatah men who aided
      and protected the identity of an injured Muhammad Deif in the immediate
      aftermath of Israel's botched September 26 assassination attempt on the
      Hamas military leader.
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