Arafat arrests 120 in crackdown on Hamas

PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

Under intense pressure from Israel, Palestinian security forces have arrested 120 members of Hamas, which carried out Sunday's bombings in Gaza and the West Bank, but Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, is resisting demands for a general round-up of the organisation.

Yesterday, Palestinian officials tentatively identified the two suicide bombers who killed 25 Israelis in Jerusalem and Ashkelon when they exploded bombs strapped to their bodies. They were Majdi Abu Wardeh, 19, and Ibrahim Sarahneh, 26, from in a refugee camp in the West Bank. Their bodies were too badly mutilated by the blasts to be identified, but Abu Wardeh left behind a photograph of himself with the words "Farewell, Izzedine al-Qassim Brigades" written on the back. Izzedine al-Qassim is the military wing of Hamas. Sarahneh, believed to have blown up the No 18 bus in Jerusalem, had worked as a construction worker in Israel, but was unemployed for the past year.

Al-Fawwar is a dusty camp housing 7,000 people five miles west of Hebron, most of the refugees originally coming from Kiryat Gat in Israel. It had a reputation for militancy during the Palestinian intifada (uprising). Maryam Sarahneh, the mother of the bomber, said Israeli troops raided her house on Monday night, arresting her three other sons and taking photographs and documents.

Israeli security says that the Izzedine al-Qassim cell which organised the latest bombings is based in Gaza, but the operation was carried out from Hebron. Both men were dressed as Israeli soldiers. Israel is to give Mr Arafat a list of 10 names of Hamas leaders it wants arrested, notably Gaza-based Mohammed Deif, believed to be the brains behind the attacks.

Hamas, of which the Izzedine al-Qassim brigades are only a small part, appears divided about what it should do next. Even its leaflet claiming the bombing attacks on Sunday has an apologetic, almost pleading tone, insisting: "We are not murderers and not terrorists." It adds that if Israel were serious about peace it would release Hamas prisoners and stop hunting down its militants. If this were done then Hamas would be worried by "every drop of bloodshed."

It was not a good moment to ask the Israeli government for a truce. But the offer does show that Hamas is ambivalent. It makes no Palestinian national demands but speaks only of the security of Hamas members, in prison and out. It is probably to be taken seriously because talks in Cairo between Hamas leaders and Mr Arafat last month collapsed because he could not guarantee their safety from Israeli attack.

The intentions of Hamas are important because they may decide who wins the Israeli election on 29 May. Labour party strategists think Shimon Peres, the Prime Minister, might still get a majority, but only if there are no more suicide bombs. If there are and he loses the election, then the Oslo peace accords may unravel.

The reaction of the government was to demand that Mr Arafat crush the infrastructure of Hamas. Karmi Gilon, the former head of the Shin Bet, said: "Arafat is taking measures against suicide bombers who are en route to carry out attacks in Israel, and he tries to eliminate suicide attacks, but he is not putting enough pressure on the Hamas leadership."

Mr Arafat made it clear to diplomats in Gaza that he has no intention of pursuing the whole of Hamas. His strategy so far is to pursue the Izzedine al-Qassim militants, harass Hamas politicians and try to split the organisation. Before Sunday the strategy seemed to be working. Mr Arafat's strategy will not impress Israeli voters. He probably believes, however, that he has no alternative.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Manager / Technical Executive

£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity exists ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

£21000 - £23600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger & Arrears Supervisor

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are an experienced super...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Web Designer

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this leading ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss