Israel asks Britain to impose ban on Hamas

Click to follow
The Independent Online
REPORTS that Israel has requested that Britain outlaw the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, and the weekend war of words across the Jordan over Amman's supposed harbouring of Hamas leaders, underline Israel's impotence in dealing with the militant group.

Israel radio reported yesterday that Israel had passed on information to the British authorities showing that Hamas uses Britain as a safe haven for planning attacks on Israeli targets and for transferring funds and instructions to its foot- soldiers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. It said Hamas used Islamic charitable organisations for raising funds and sending them to the occupied territories.

Officials in London said they were not aware of any formal approach by Israel, but understood Israel was keen to widen the campaign against Hamas. This would not be the first time that Israel appealed to the West to help it fight Islamic extremism. In February 1993, Israel supplied what it called evidence of Hamas activity in the United States and Britain; the Home Office took no action, suggesting that Israel did not provide proof that supposed Hamas activists in Britain were in breach of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Then, the Israeli propaganda machine was geared up after the international outcry over the expulsion in December 1992 of some 400 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists. This time, Israel is seeking help to curb Hamas after two suicide bombers claimed a dozen lives in the past two weeks. Yesterday a Hamas activist was shot and wounded after he attacked Israeli bus passengers with an axe, wounding four.

Israeli officials have noted an increased sophistication in the use of suicide bombers by the armed wing of Hamas, the Izzideen al-Qassam brigades, a phenomenon common in Lebanon but until recently rare among Palestinians.

Hamas activists have said these were revenge attacks for the Hebron mosque massacre on 25 February. Israeli officials, however, have cast Hamas as the enemy of peace, and declared Hamas is waging a campaign to wreck the peace process. It sees the Hamas operations as part of the continuing jockeying for power and influence with the main Palestinian faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Hamas, however, has stated it will go along with any gains made by Mr Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), but says its ultimate aim is the liberation of the whole of Palestine, including Israel. In the past few days, Fatah and Hamas have been discussing co- operation rather than confrontation in the Gaza Strip.

The surge of attacks inside Israel has increased pressure on Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister, to take action, to deal with the problem. He introduced (and then relaxed) curbs on Palestinians travelling in Israel proper. But because of the delicate negotiations with the PLO, he cannot afford another drastic step like the mass deportations of known activists without jeopardising the entire peace process.

Hence the war of words, and his appeal to other countries to do more. The depth of Israeli frustration was shown by the extraordinary public demand last Thursday by Mr Rabin that King Hussein of Jordan should take some action to curb Hamas activities in Amman. Israel was enraged that spokesmen for Hamas were appearing on news broadcasts to declare that Hamas had been behind the killing of these 12 Israeli civilians. 'Without elaborating,' Mr Rabin said, 'we believe that there are other lines of communication and assistance between this centre of Hamas in Amman and the activities of Hamas in the (occupied) territories and attacks in Israel. Israel cannot tolerate the continuation of Amman being a paradise for the activities of Hamas . . . We see this government (Jordan) responsible for whatever happens on its sovereign soil. And we would like to make it clear that this situation cannot continue.'

And Shimon Peres, his Foreign Minister, was as emphatic. 'I don't know of a single instance in foreign affairs,' he said, conveniently forgetting Syria, 'in which a country striving for peace allows a representative of a murderous organisation to appear in broad daylight and say, 'We've carried out two acts of murder and we intended perpetrating three more like that'. King Hussein must act.'

The king has rejected the charges, saying Hamas enjoys no legal status in Jordan.