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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04TELAVIV1742
2004-03-22 16:51:00
SECRET
Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

HAMAS CHARGES USG CULPABILITY IN YASIN KILLING;

Tags:   KWBG  KPAL  PREL  PTER  GZ  IS  ISRAELI  PALESTINIAN  AFFAIRS  GAZA  DISENGAGEMENT 
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						S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 001742 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/22/2009
TAGS: KWBG KPAL PREL PTER GZ IS ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT
SUBJECT: HAMAS CHARGES USG CULPABILITY IN YASIN KILLING;
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS MARCH IN GAZA PROCESSION


Classified By: Pol/C Norm Olsen, per 1.4(b) and (d).

THIS IS A JOINT MESSAGE FROM EMBASSY TEL AVIV AND CONGEN
JERUSALEM.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 001742

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/22/2009
TAGS: KWBG KPAL PREL PTER GZ IS ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS GAZA DISENGAGEMENT
SUBJECT: HAMAS CHARGES USG CULPABILITY IN YASIN KILLING;
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS MARCH IN GAZA PROCESSION


Classified By: Pol/C Norm Olsen, per 1.4(b) and (d).

THIS IS A JOINT MESSAGE FROM EMBASSY TEL AVIV AND CONGEN
JERUSALEM.


1. (S/NF) Summary: Hamas leaders have responded to the IAF's
assassination of Hamas leader Shaykh Ahmad Yasin March 22 by
vowing retaliation against Israel and blaming the USG, saying
&The Zionists did not take such a step without the approval
of the terrorist U.S. Administration. Therefore, it should
bear responsibility for this crime.8 In Gaza City, hundreds
of thousands of Palestinians marched in a funeral procession
over four kilometers long. In addition to Yasin, two
bodyguards and four other Hamas members were also killed, and
Yasin's two sons and 17 others were wounded in the IAF
missile attack. A senior IDF source told A/DATT that the IDF
had evidence that Yasin was behind the decisions to escalate
the number of attacks against Israel, including those
targeting infrastructure, and to use women as suicide
bombers, with the ultimate goal of creating the image that
Hamas had pushed the IDF out of Gaza once Israel executes a
unilateral withdrawal. In clashes with the IDF in the West
Bank and elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, three Palestinians were
killed and a total of 29 were injured. End Summary.


2. (SBU) The IDF succeeded in killing Hamas spiritual leader
Shaykh Ahmad Yasin in the early hours of March 22, as Yasin
was leaving morning prayers at a mosque in the Zeitoun area
of Gaza City. According to IDF sources, IAF helicopters
fired at least three missiles at Yasin's vehicle at 0510
hours March 22, killing Yasin, two bodyguards, and four other
Hamas members (Note: UNRWA and Israeli media claimed that the
four were passersby. End note.). Yasin's two sons, along
with 17 others, were wounded; Israeli media claimed that one
of Yasin's sons died subsequently of his injuries. According
to GOI sources, the attack was planned after two Palestinians
from Gaza carried out the March 14 suicide attack in the port

of Ashdod that killed ten Israelis and wounded 20. Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz had also told the Israeli cabinet March
21 that the IDF had developed plans to "severely weaken"
Hamas ahead of an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.


3. (S/NF) A senior IDF source told A/DATT March 22 that the
IDF had evidence that Yasin was directly responsible for
ordering the recent increase in attacks in Gaza and in
Israel, including those targeting infrastructure, as well as
the use of women as suicide bombers, with the ultimate goal
of taking credit for pushing the IDF out of Gaza. The IDF
source said the IDF had acted against Yasin in order to stop
the escalation, prevent Hamas from developing an image as
successfully forcing Israel out of Gaza, and to ensure that
Hamas would not become the preeminent power in Gaza after
Israel withdraws.


4. (SBU) Following the attack, the IDF completely closed the
Gaza Strip and closed traffic through the main internal
checkpoints in the middle of the Strip. In Gaza City, at
1000 hours an estimated 40,000 people were waiting outside
the al-Shifa hospital to escort Yasin's body to the funeral,
and flags from all Palestinian organizations were reportedly
in evidence. By 1300, the crowd in Gaza City had swelled to
an estimated several hundred thousand and eyewitnesses said
the procession stretched over four kilometers down the
four-lane Omar al-Muktar street, from Palestine Square to
al-Nasser Street. One contact noted the absence of any PA
security officials on the streets in Gaza City, ostensibly to
avoid any possible confrontations with mourners or Hamas
militants. PA security officers did, however, join the
funeral procession as an honor guard.


5. (SBU) Immediately following the attack, Hamas official
Ismail Haniyah said that "Sharon has opened the gates of
Hell, and nothing will stop us from cutting off his
(Sharon's) head." When asked in an interview with al-Jazeera
whether a response to Yasin's killing was imminent, Abd
al-Aziz Rantisi responded that the "Izzadin al-Qassam
Brigades (militant wing of Hamas) will decide," but that
Hamas action was not merely a response, but the "beginning of
the battle." In Gaza, one militant announced that "a new
Intifada begins today."

--------------
PA Statements Denounce Attack, Call for Unity
--------------


6. (SBU) There has been an immense outpouring of grief and
anger throughout the territories. In the official PA
statement, PA Chairman Yasir Arafat condemned the
assassination and called on Palestinians to close ranks and
show strength and unity. Arafat ordered three days of
national mourning in the West Bank and Gaza in honor of
Yasin. PA Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya, echoed the thoughts,
adding that the assassination would &escalate the
operations, which ) with regret ) Israel plans for.8
Quraya, appealed to the Quartet and the USG to intervene,
arguing there had been &enough disregard for Palestinian
blood.8 PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha,ath said &there is
no struggle between Fatah and Hamas. Shaykh Ahmad Yasin is
respected by every Fatah member...." All three statements
referred to the Yasin assassination as crossing &all red
lines.8

--------------
Inside Hamas
--------------


7. (C) Among Gaza contacts, Abd al-Aziz Rantisi is viewed as
a possible interim leader of Hamas, at least in the short
term. According to Hamas-affiliated journalist Ghazi Hamad,
the organization will convene a consultative council in the
coming weeks to choose a new permanent leader. He opined,
however, that in the nearer term, the focus will remain on
immediate retaliation for Yasin's death, a position borne out
by statements from Hamas and other militant leaders
(Jerusalem septel). Ha'aretz columnist and
Palestinian-watcher Danny Rubenstein opined that Yasin's
death would increase support for Hamas among Palestinians.
Furthermore, with Yasin's death, the possibility that the PA
would ever try to rein in Hamas was gone as any efforts to
this end would be viewed as collaboration with Israeli
security forces.

--------------
Israeli Reaction
--------------


8. (C) In meetings March 22 with DOD Under Secretary Dov
Zakheim, Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz said that Israel had
"done the right thing," and would "continue to fight terror."
He referred to Shaykh Yasin as "the Palestinians' bin
Laden." Deputy PM Ehud Olmert, however, noted to Zakheim in
a separate meeting that Yasin's killing could make it more
difficult to carry out the coordination with the PA necessary
ahead of the planned withdrawal. Opposition MK Efraim Sneh
had a different take, telling Zakheim that Yasin's
assassination was "not a clever move", because it will
accelerate the ongoing power shift in Gaza further in favor
of Hamas and away from the PA now that people have more
sympathy for Hamas. Sneh further claimed that the Sharon
government was "doing nothing" to encourage moderate
Palestinians to take over in Gaza and opined that, had the
GOI done more to bolster Abu Mazen, there could have been a
"sea change" in Gaza for the better.


9. (SBU) Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) said in
an interview with Israel Radio March 22 that the IDF action
would make it clear that there is "no immunity for terror."
While acknowledging that there could be an upsurge in
terrorism in response, Netanyahu stressed that in the long
term, the effect would be to rein in Hamas. Minister of
Agriculture, and fellow Likud member, Yisrael Katz said that
the IDF action rehabilitated Israel's deterrent capability.
NRP MK Gila Finkelstein agreed that Yasin had been a "marked
man," but only regretted that his elimination had to be
linked with the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.


10. (SBU) However, support was not universal within the GOI.
Minister of Interior Avraham Poraz (Shinui) said in an
interview with Israeli media March 22 that he had opposed the
cabinet decision to target Hamas leaders because such action
was likely to increase terrorism inside Israel, a view also
held by Yossi Beilin, head of the newly formed Yachad Party
and architect of the Geneva Accords. Calling the policy of
targeted killings "neither legitimate nor effective," Beilin
asserted that the policy has not eliminated terrorism but has
instead cost hundreds of lives. Meretz MK Yossi Sarid
agreed, saying that killing Yasin would only escalate the
violence. Israeli Arab MK Ahmad Tibi called Yasin's killing
"madness", while Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh said in a
statement to the press that the GOI had turned into "a wild
gang which is exposing Israel to frightening terrorism."

-------------- --------------
Attack Prompts Clashes in the WB, East Jerusalem and in Gaza
-------------- --------------


11. (SBU) Hours after the assassination, Israeli troops
killed one Palestinian and injured seven others during
clashes in the Balata refugee camp. A Palestinian journalist
covering the clashes was also killed. Near Rachel's Tomb in
Bethlehem, three Palestinians were injured, one of them
seriously, when the IDF fired on protesters who reportedly
threw Molotov cocktails at the troops. At least 14
Palestinians were injured in clashes with the IDF in Halhul
and Hebron, and several shooting attacks at IDF targets were
reported in Hebron, Nablus, and near Bethlehem. Clashes also
broke out between Palestinians and Israeli police near
Damascus Gate and the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem.
Inside the Old City of Jerusalem, a group of Palestinians
attacked an Israeli youth; three of the attackers were
arrested. No injuries were reported in any of the Jerusalem
events.

12. (SBU) All schools were closed in the West Bank, Gaza,
and East Jerusalem after the assassination, in accordance
with the three-day mourning period announced by Arafat.
Roughly 3,500 Palestinians gathered in Nablus and about 1,000
Palestinians assembled in central Ramallah to protest the
assassination. Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in
Tulkarem and Qalqilya. Several wake houses were opened
throughout the West Bank and Gaza to mourn Yasin, with Arafat
announcing that he would receive condolences in his office
from 1800-2000 hours.


13. (SBU) During clashes with the IDF in Khan Yunis, two
Palestinians were killed and five others were wounded, and
four Palestinians were injured in similar clashes in Abu
Khouli. Palestinians also fired anti-tank missiles and
mortars on settlements in Gush Katif, and a missile was fired
at the Erez Crossing. No injuries were reported in either
incident. In Rafah, some 25,000 people demonstrated on the
main street, as Hamas leaders there called for a "military
show of strength."

--------------
Hamas Points a Finger At U.S.
--------------


14. (SBU) In a statement March 22 and posted on the AFP
website, the al-Qassam Brigades blamed the USG for Yasin,s
assassination, saying &The Zionists did not take such a step
without the approval of the terrorist US Administration.
Therefore, it should bear responsibility for this crime.8
Hamas leader Abd al-Aziz Rantisi added that &the Islamic
nation should wake up and shake the land under the feet of
those Zionists and those who back them from the Americans.8
Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah referred repeatedly to
the &U.S. missiles8 used in the attack.



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