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04TELAVIV2249 2004-04-19 15:47:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 002249 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2009

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


1. (C) Summary: Contacts throughout the Gaza Strip all
concurred that the April 17 assassination of Hamas leader Abd
al-Aziz al-Rantisi the March 22 assassination of Shaykh Ahmad
Yasin and the Bush-Sharon summit were being viewed as a
cumulative series of actions against the Palestinian people.
Particularly in the aftermath of the April 15 Bush-Sharon
meeting in Washington, the perception on the street was that
United States had given Sharon the "green light" to carry out
the attack. Palestinians, already furious at the exchange of
letters between the U.S. and Israel that they interpret as
evidence that the U.S. has now completely sided with Israel,
have concluded that Israel does not want peace. Contacts
predicted that there would be negative repercussions in
ongoing talks between Hamas and the PA over their future
relationship in the Gaza Strip after an Israeli withdrawal.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) In the aftermath of the April 18 assassination of
Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi in an IAF missile strike in Gaza City,
militants' reactions in Gaza have been swift and heavy.
According to the IDF, at least 37 mortars and rockets were
fired at Israeli settlements and IDF outposts throughout the
Strip since the assassination, and UNRWA has reports that at
least six rockets were fired into Israel. The Israeli media
reported that one settler had been injured, and a total of 14
Palestinians, including a nine-year-old girl, were wounded in
Gaza when IDF soldiers returned fire.

3. (C) The reaction was no less vociferous in the political
and social realms, with Palestinian outrage at the latest in
a series of assassinations merging with what contacts
referred to as the Palestinians' sense of betrayal following
PM Sharon's meeting last week with President Bush. A
journalist sympathetic to Hamas, Ghazi Hamad, told Poloff
April 18 that the feeling among residents, political and
apolitical alike, is that Israel will not withdraw from Gaza
until it has succeeded in "punishing" each Palestinian in the
Strip. The GOI's action affected the entire Palestinian
situation, he added, not just that in Gaza. When asked how
al-Rantisi's death would impact ongoing Hamas-PA talks, Hamad
said, "Especially after the (Bush-Sharon) summit, there is no
way now to talk about peaceful compromise. The language
between all the factions now is completely different, because
they (the factions) know that they are each of them a
target." Israel, he added, will not leave Gaza until it is
"clean" of Hamas. Hamas members, Hamad predicted, will now
let nothing stop them.

4. (C) Jihad al-Wazir, deputy minister of planning in Gaza
and son of assassinated PLO leader Abu Jihad, told Poloff
April 19 that al-Rantisi's assassination was a direct and
logical result of the April 15 Bush-Sharon meeting. That
meeting, al-Wazir said, demonstrated that the U.S. could not
say no to Sharon and, as a result, Sharon felt empowered to
take whatever actions he wished. "By giving him (Sharon)
carte blanche, you have let the bull loose in the china
shop," al-Wazir said. Al-Wazir, a western-educated, PA
pragmatist, elaborated, saying that the GOI had carried out
the assassination of former Hamas leader Shaykh Ahmad Yasin
after he had accepted the 1967 borders in the creation of a
Palestinian state. Now, al-Wazir continued, Israel has
killed Yasin's successor al-Rantisi just when Hamas was
sitting together with the PA to work out the terms of their
post-withdrawal relationship in Gaza. It is clear to
everyone, al-Wazir concluded, that Israel is doing this to
weaken the Palestinian people, not just Hamas. Furthermore,
even though al-Rantisi was much more radical than Yasin, none
of the remaining possible Hamas leaders has as much stature.
Now, younger and even more radical individuals will move to
the fore, al-Wazir predicted, and any nascent agreement
reached with Muhammad Dahlan and the PA in recent days may
well unravel.

5. (C) Al-Wazir outlined what he saw as a possible scenario:
Hamas will do its utmost to carry out a large attack on an
Israeli target at the earliest opportunity. Given the likely
severity of any Hamas attack, and the perceived American
"green light," the IDF will then respond "strategically
rather than tactically", possibly even targeting Yasir
Arafat. While admittedly unsure whether or not Hamas had the
capacity in the near term to carry out such a catastrophic
attack against Israel, al-Wazir stressed that all focus is
now on retaliation.

6. (C) A prominent Gaza businessman, Ahed Bseiso, wondered
why Israel had hit al-Rantisi now, when Hamas had not
retaliated for the strike that killed Shaykh Yasin. Prior to
al-Rantisi's death, Bseiso said, he had the impression that
Fatah's efforts to restrain Hamas had been working. Now,
however, all bets were off. Palestinians are 100 percent
convinced that Israel does not want peace, Bseiso concluded,
adding that Palestinian anger and disappointment with the
United States was palpable. Echoing the same sentiment, UNDP
Deputy Representative Iman al-Wazir told Econoff April 19
that people were perhaps more upset that Sharon seems to have
a free hand from the U.S. than at the actions themselves.

7. (SBU) These individual views of the assassination
reflected harsh official statements that emerged over the
weekend. Officials from PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath
down to individual Hamas leaders all alleged U.S. complicity
in the al-Rantisi assassination, drawing the link between the
timing of the killing and the recent Bush-Sharon summit in
Washington. Hamas, the Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs'
Brigades, and other, smaller groups all issued statements
vowing to retaliate against Israel for the assassination.

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