Sunday, October 25, 2015

From Gaza, Hamas May Now Be Directing Terror Attacks, Assad Ready For Early Elections - Russian Delegation To Damascus

From Gaza, Hamas may now be directing terror attacks

The message from the Islamist Hamas terror organization — directed more at the Palestinian people than Israel — is clear: We are a part of this “intifada” and we aren’t going anywhere.

While the group, which rules the Gaza Strip, has a less prominent presence in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank, its voice is still being heard with recent attacks.

On Thursday morning, a Palestinian teenager stabbed a soldier in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem; a day later, two 20-year-olds stabbed an Israeli man after unsuccessfully attempting to board a school bus full of children in the central city of Beit Shemesh.

The latter two, after being shot by security forces, were both discovered to be wearing t-shirts reading “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam” — the name of Hamas’s armed wing. All three attackers were from the Hebron-area village of Surif, and two of them — one in each incident — were named Ghanimat.

In recent years, all Hamas terror attacks in the West Bank have been directed and coordinated by the group’s “West Bank bureau.” The bureau is situated in Gaza and overseen by Hamas operatives originally from the West Bank who were deported to Gaza during the prisoner exchange for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

The bureau is headed by Abd el-Rahman Ghanimat and Mazen Fuqha, the former a member of the notorious “Surif squad” — a terrorist cell headed by Ibrahim Ghanimat that was responsible for a series of attacks against Israelis in the 1990s. Abd el-Rahman Ghanimat was serving five life sentences when he was released under the Shalit deal.

The Ghanimat connection between the commander in Gaza and the terrorists on the ground immediately raises suspicions these attacks were not a local “lone wolf” terror initiative, but rather were carried out on explicit instructions from their “cousin.” However, this is only a suspicion at this point.

This directive is no secret. Hamas’s calls for violence are made frequently and publicly on media outlets, but the group has refrained from urging attackers to carry out more severe terror attacks, like the campaign of suicide bombing attacks against Israelis during the Second Intifada at the start of the millennium.
So far, Hamas in Gaza has not paid a price from Israel for its role in inciting and encouraging the ongoing surge in violence. The organization’s leadership, however, understands that if the current spate of attacks becomes more deadly, Israel may respond by striking Hamas targets in Gaza, a development the Islamist group wishes to avoid. A return to the 2000-2001 modus operandi would probably come with a heavy price tag.

Hamas is succeeding in painting itself as responsible for starting the current uprising against Israel, citing the October 1 terror attack in the West Bank in which Eitam and Naama Henkin were gunned down in their car in front of their children. Some analysts believe it is no coincidence the deadly shooting attack on the Henkins occurred just days after a series of unprecedented demonstrations against Hamas rule in the Strip.

Palestinian terror group Hamas is reportedly calling for a resumption of suicide bombings against Israelis, as the wave of violence sweeping the region in recent weeks continued.

According to the Ynet news website on Monday, which quoted unnamed Israeli sources, Hamas activists in the West Bank cities of Hebron and Nablus have been instructed to blow themselves up in crowded spots in Israeli cities or West Bank settlements. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, also has a lesser presence in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said Sunday that it was necessary to turn the current round of violence into a full-fledged intifada (uprising) against Israel. Rather then stabbing civilians and soldiers with a knife — the weapon of choice among many perpetrators of recent attacks — al-Zahar urged Palestinians to begin using guns and explosives against Israeli targets as well.

Last week, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, urged further unrest and called for the “strengthening and increasing of the intifada.” Delivering a sermon for Muslim Friday prayers at a mosque in Gaza, Haniyeh said armed resistance was the “only path that will lead to liberation.”

In efforts to prevent attacks, the security cabinet of senior ministers last week approved the deployment of hundreds of IDF troops in Jerusalem, as well as a partial lockdown on several Arab neighborhoods in the city. Other courses of action passed included the demolition of terrorists’ homes within days of attacks and the banning of new construction, the confiscation of property belonging to terrorists who carry out attacks, and the revoking of permanent residency rights from their families.

The cabinet on Sunday also approved a bill expanding the rules under which police can stop and search potential suspects. Ministers voted unanimously in favor of amending the current law to allow officers to carry out body searches even without reasonable suspicion that the subject is carrying a weapon.

An Israeli Beduin who carried out a deadly attack last week at the Beersheba central bus stationwas in contact with Hamas before the attack, which was planned well in advance, Negev police said Sunday.

Investigators working the case found that before the attack – during which Muhand al-Uqbi, a 21-year-old native of Hura, shot and killed IDF soldier Omri Levi and wounded several other Israelis – al-Uqbi had been in contact with Hamas for a long period of time before the attack and that on his phone he had pictures of Hamas members, weapons, and other materials.

That information came to light in a statement put out by the Negev police on Sunday, as they presented a pre-indictment motion against al-Uqbi’s brother, who will be charged with failing to prevent a crime, after investigators determined that he knew his brother had acquired a pistol and was “going through a process of radicalization due to the events on the Temple Mount and did not report it.”

The Syrian President Bashar Assad has agreed to hold preliminary elections in the country, on the condition the move has the backing of the population, a member of Moscow's Parliamentary delegation has told the TASS news agency.

Russian Communist party MP Aleksandr Yushenko mentioned from Syria that the president “is ready to discuss amendments to the constitution, hold parliamentary elections and, if the people of Syria deem necessary, expressed a readiness to hold presidential elections.”

According to Yushenko, who met the Syrian president in Damascus, Assad “is absolutely confident of his chances [of victory],” should the elections take place.

During the meeting, the Syrian leader stressed that “the fight against terrorism will become the foundation for a new and just world based on sovereignty and cooperation.” The president also told Syrian media that "eliminating terrorist groups will lead to the political solution we aim for in Syria and Russia."

The Syrian president also said he is expecting a visit from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin and chair Valentina Matvienko.

The news comes after last Saturday’s message to the Syrian leadership from the Russian members of parliament.

“[Assad]… looks forward to our governments working more effectively together. He looks at Dmitry Rogozin as a professional… capable of helping to solve many of the pressing issues, including things like water supply and increasing humanitarian aid, as well as oil and gas sector development,” Communist MP Sergey Gavrilov said.

The Russian delegates, headed by Dmitry Sablin, arrived in Damascus on Friday. 
They were also travelling with a humanitarian aid shipment, which included medicine and food for children.
Meanwhile, President Assad says the Russian airstrike campaign currently taking place across the country has surpassed local and even American expectations, Sablin told TASS. Although Assad expected the Russian airstrikes to go well, neither the Syrian government, “nor even the Americans, expected the Russian air force to perform so effectively,” Sablin added.
Russian aviation continues to launch its missions from the Latakia airbase just south of the city. Flights are carried out night and day, with fighter pilots constantly on rotation to keep up operational pace and pressure on the jihadists. Russia says demoralizing the enemy is a key part in forcing foreign fighters out of Syria.

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