Jewish World Review May 29, 2002 /18 Sivan, 5762

Hamas big: Any deal with Arafat or Arab country is worthless

By Sana Abdallah | AMMAN, Jordan (UPI) -- The leader of the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic extremist Hamas group warned in an interview published yesterday that suicide attacks against Israel would continue, despite stepped up efforts to stop them by Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority.

In a rare interview with the Jordanian weekly As Sabeel, Salah Shehadeh, the commander of the so-called Izziddine Qassam Brigades, said that political, financial and military obstacles would not prevent "martyrs" from carrying out their attacks "in the midst of the Zionist entity."

The newspaper ran a full, front-page question-and-answer interview with Shehadeh, who tops Israel's most wanted list, during which he outlined the group's activities, from the way it recruits suicide bombers to the choosing of its targets.

The weekly did not say where it met with Shehadeh, but reported in its introduction that it took a long time for him to grant an interview.

The extremist leader said that his organization faced many obstacles in carrying out attacks on Israel, including a crackdown by the Palestinian Authority security apparatus -- which arrested 14 Hamas activists, earlier this month -- and "the lack of substantial weapons, such as anti-aircraft and long-range missiles."

Shehadeh said that each suicide attack costs between $3,500 and $50,000 "depending on the nature of the target."

These figures are different from those given by another Palestinian group in documents the Israeli army says it seized while occupying the headquarters compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The documents, which the Israelis say come from the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades -- a secular group linked to Arafat's Fatah movement -- put the price of "one ready explosive device" at about $140, according to a translation on the Israeli army's Web site.

Shehadeh also blamed "conniving Arab regimes" for blocking the import of arms for his "mujahedin" or Islamic holy warriors.

In recent days, other Hamas leaders in Gaza and Damascus have denied reports that Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen have asked them to stop suicide attacks, and they have re-iterated their goal of destroying Israel.

Shehadeh said the increasing prices charged for weapons by "the bloodsuckers, the arms dealers," was another obstacle, explaining that his group pays $5,000 per U.S.-made M-16 rifle and $1.50 per bullet, while the Czech-made Kalashnikov costs $2,000 and its bullet $4 a piece."

He added, however, that the brigades were "overcoming the financial problem with the contributions of those who support the process of jihad." He said that his group has also managed to manufacture its own weapons, thus "cutting down the cost" of acquiring them.

Shehadeh said that the organization had its own technicians who have developed hand grenades and missiles, adding that these "are very easy for us to make." He said that the explosives manufactured for the missiles, which he said were short and medium range," are made from very basic components that women can prepare at home."

The weekly showed a close-up color picture of the bearded Shehadeh, and another photograph showing him wearing a tracksuit, carrying a rifle, and embracing another young man carrying a similar rifle. The caption said the photograph was of Shehadeh bidding farewell to his nephew, Bilal, before "executing a martyr operation."

The militant also explained the rules for recruiting or accepting suicide bombers, which he said were increasing rapidly in numbers. He said that the recruit or volunteer "should be a committed Muslim, his parents content with him and loved by his family, that he is not the only son to his parents and nor is he the breadwinner in the family."

"He has to be mature, dependable and strong, and we prefer he is not married. It is important that his martyrdom becomes a model and incentive for others to carry out martyr attacks," Shehadeh said.

He explained that the "regional military leaderships nominate the volunteers, and the general leadership makes the decision on whether to accept or deny his nomination."

He described as a "blessing that the Jews are from every race, color and breed because it makes it easier" for bombers to blend in with Israelis in order to kill them.

Shehadeh said that the Izziddine Brigades, which he described as the "army of Hamas (which) takes its own initiatives in operations," also had reconnaissance teams that survey the targets for at least three months before carrying out an attack.

He said that as a rule, the brigades avoid targets involving children, the elderly, temples, schools or hospitals.

These comments were made despite the fact that Hamas suicide bombings regularly kill both the very young and the very old. In the Dec. 2 bombing of a bus in Haifa, for instance, nine of the 15 victims were 60 or older. The attack came just one day after eleven youngsters aged 14-21 years old were killed by a Hamas attack in Ben Yehuda Street, the pedestrian mall in the center of Jerusalem.

Shehadeh said that his organization was based on "our commitment to the principles of jihad, and our slogan is 'We don't fight the Jews because they are Jews.' We don't fight them because of their ideology, but we fight them because they occupy our lands and homes."

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