Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat allowed Hamas to carry out terror attacks against Israel following the failure of the Camp David peace talks in July 2000, and transferred weapons to the Islamic terror group through a previously unknown organization in Gaza, a senior Hamas official said.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and its former foreign minister, explained the historic background of reconciliation talks with Fatah in an interview with his movement’s Al-Aqsa TV channel on Sunday.
Following six years of political persecution by the Palestinian Authority beginning in 1994, he said, Yasser Arafat came to the conclusion that peace talks with Israel were futile, as negotiations brokered by US president Bill Clinton collapsed. Israel and Clinton later blamed Arafat for the failure of the talks, which were followed by the eruption of the Second Intifada and an onslaught of suicide bomb attacks on Israel.
“[Arafat] sent someone from the Preventive Security Agency to Sheikh Salah Shehadah who told him: ‘I have no problem with Hamas carrying out operations,'” al-Zahar said. Shehadah was a Hamas terrorist leader killed by Israel in 2002
Later, a previously unknown armed group emerged in Gaza, calling itself the Omar Al-Mukhtar Forces. Hamas’s leadership was divided on how to treat the new group, he went on. Some believed that Omar Al-Mukhtar was linked with Israel, while others supported seizing the moment and carrying out joint attacks with the group or using its weapons for Hamas attacks.
Hamas eventually decided to take the weapons, including RPG anti-tank grenade launchers, from Omar Al-Mukhtar, which turned out to be an arm of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah in Gaza, al-Zahar said.
“[Israel] told Abu-Ammar (Arafat): ‘Listen, we didn’t bring you back for this kind of thing,'” and then there was a siege [of Arafat’s compound in Ramallah], the West Bank was reoccupied, and he was gotten rid of.”
Al-Zahar’s comments give further credence to the claim that the Second Intifada was less a spontaneous Palestinian uprising than a premeditated top-down effort by Arafat to inflame the street
Al-Zahar’s comments give further credence to the claim that the Second Intifada — which began in September 2000 following a controversial visit by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount — was less a spontaneous Palestinian uprising than a premeditated top-down effort by Arafat to inflame the street. Many Israeli officials have argued that Arafat instigated the Second Intifada, in part to deflect blame for his refusal to progress toward a full peace agreement in the Camp David negotiations.
“Whether this [change of policy by Arafat] was to improve his negotiating position or a real change, only God knows, but there was no more persecution [of Hamas by the PA],” al-Zahar concluded.
Meanwhile, Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad, who led reconciliation talks with Hamas, lashed out at the Islamic organization in an interview with Egypt’s Dream TV station Saturday, accusing it of bombing Fatah offices in Gaza on November 7. He said that the PA has decided to freeze all contact with Hamas until, in its role as the ruling body in Gaza, it investigates the attacks.
“Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is well-known that the Muslim Brotherhood has no loyalty to the states it operates in,” al-Ahmad said. “They believe in an Islamic Caliphate, and are free to do so. But they can’t impose that on the Palestinian people.”
Al-Ahmad added that Egypt had informed the PA that Hamas was involved in terror attacks inside Egypt.
“Hamas has grown accustomed to play with words, and hide things. We want these secrets to disappear, and work together with them in the light of day.”