|04DAMASCUS6857||2004-12-14 15:30:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Damascus|
O 141530Z DEC 04 FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8906 INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
1. (C) Summary: On December 13, a car bomb exploded in the
Old Mezzeh section of Damascus, wounding some passers-by but
apparently killing no one. Media contacts confirmed that the
target of the bombing was Mesbah Abu Hweileh, a Palestinian
HAMAS official residing in Damascus. Interior Minister Ghazi
Kanaan appeared on Syrian television the evening of December
13, claiming that the Mossad was behind the bombing. End
2. (C) At approximately 1300 on December 13, a car bomb
went off in the commercial district of Old Mezzeh,
approximately 1.5 miles from the Embassy. A number of
passers-by were reportedly injured by flying glass, and
Syrians present at the scene mentioned to both RSO and A/ARMA
that a woman had been killed in the blast; however, no deaths
have been confirmed by authorities or by the press.
According to press contacts, the car belonged to HAMAS member
Mesbah Abu Hweileh, who was in Old Mezzeh with his daughter
and wife, on their way to a dentist appointment. The bomb
apparently detonated shortly after they had exited the
3. (C) AP reporter Albert Aji told Poloff that he spoke to
HAMAS' deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu Marzouk, who
told Aji that he believed the Mossad organized the bombing.
Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan claimed as much in a statement
that aired on Syrian television the evening of December 13
and was picked up by all of the Arabic satellite stations.
Comment: Kanaan's appearance on television immediately after
the bombings to state the Syrian point of view is a departure
from the normal veil of silence that ensues after major
incidents of this sort, and may be a further indication of
increasing SARG openness to a more liberal media environment.
4. (C) Note: This is the second time a HAMAS official
residing on Syrian soil has been targeted this year; on
September 26, HAMAS leader Ezzedine Sheikh Khalil was killed
in a car bombing (reftel).
5. (C) Comment: While Israel has neither denied nor claimed
responsibility for either incident, the target and timing of
each could be indicative of a "tit-for-tat" approach on the
part of Israel, which may be conducting operations in Syria
in response to Palestinian attacks in the Territories. The
September 26 Khalil assassination, for example, came weeks
after twin suicide bombings in southern Israel, while the
December 13 Mezzeh car bomb incident came several days after
the joint HAMAS/Fatah-orchestrated attack on an Israeli army
outpost near Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border. End Comment.