Jerusalem -Three countries knew about Hamas’s planned coup in Gaza in advance and supported it: Iran, Syria and Qatar. The coup was meticulously planned by Hamas’ military wing. The planning was completed in the course of a meeting that was held a few days before D-Day in Damascus. These are some of the new data that Western intelligence officials and diplomats have learned about Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip.

On this very same issue, the U.S. administration has voiced, in certain circles, its outrage over a telephone conversation that Director of Egyptian Intelligence General Omar Suleiman recently held with Ismail Haniyeh, the dismissed Hamas prime minister in Gaza. The Americans perceived the Egyptian behavior as a clear breach in the international campaign to isolate Hamas. Western diplomats said that: “not only did the Egyptians not deliver the goods in Gaza, not only have they not prevented arms from being smuggled for Hamas into the Gaza Strip, they are now also talking to them and granting them legitimacy.”

The final planning meeting of the coup was held, as noted, in Damascus, where Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal resides. According to the above-cited intelligence, senior officials in Hamas’ military wing sneaked out of Gaza via Rafah and into Egypt, from whence they continued to Syria. These Hamas officials subsequently returned to Gaza to supervise the execution of the plan. Iran footed the bill for the operation completely. It provided large amounts of money and trained the Hamas combat troops. This Iranian activity is still discernible.

Syria, as noted, hosts the senior Hamas leadership in its capital.

The surprise was Qatar, which is considered to be pro-West and has some relations with Israel. The mounting assessment among Western intelligence officials is that Qatar has given Hamas a financial and public umbrella by means of Al-Jazeera. Qatar, which is a member of the U.N. Security Council, recently stymied an initiative by the United States for sweeping international recognition of Abu Mazen and the Fayad government. Qatar foiled that initiative along with Indonesia, Russia and South Africa.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has begun to exact a price from the Fatah leadership that failed in Gaza. In a presidential order that he issued, General Rashid Abu Shbak, the commander of the internal Palestinian security services in the Gaza Strip was dismissed. Abbas did not explain why he fired Abu Shbak, but Fatah officials said that this was punishment for his failed performance in the events of the last number of weeks in Gaza. One assessment is that while Abbas will push Abu Shbak out of his inner circle, he will appoint him as the PA’s ambassador to Cairo. Abbas also dissolved the National Security Council, one of whose members was Ismail Haniyeh.

Hamas announced on Friday that it had no intention of establishing an Islamic fiefdom in Gaza, as Abbas said. “We neither want nor will we want an Islamic emirate, as Abbas said,” said Khalil el-Khaya, a leading Hamas official in the Gaza Strip.

Mahmoud a-Zahar said in an interview to Der Spiegel that Hamas was liable to attack Fatah targets on the West Bank and to rescind the clemency that was given to Fatah officials in Gaza. Mahmoud a-Zahar, who is perceived in the Palestinian public as one of the key figures behind the violent take-over of Gaza by Hamas, said in the interview that Hamas would not resign itself to the wave of arrests by Abbas in the West Bank and would defend themselves with bombs, as they did against Israel in the course of the Intifada.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Army arrested the founder of Hamas’ Iz a Din al-Kassam Brigades in the West Bank, Salah Arouri, who was freed from Israeli prison just three months ago.

The Veil Replaces Jeans

Only 10 days have passed since Hamas took control, and the first signs that the Gaza Strip is turning into a fanatic Islamic emirate already can be seen.

Although Hamas has not yet issued explicit orders obligating women to wear long, modest dresses, many young women fear that such orders are on the way. “It looks like I will have to go out into the street with a head covering and not wear jeans anymore,” Riham, 22, said sorrowfully. In the A-Rimal area, near the seashore, the women are already careful not to go out into the street with their hair uncovered.

Owners of Gaza Internet cafes that have not yet been closed down live in constant fear that armed men will blow up their establishments on the grounds that what happens there is counter to Islamic values.

There are no foreigners left in Gaza. Most diplomats and media representatives have fled. Walid, the owner of a 50-room hotel, watched helplessly as his guests left one by one. “A woman journalist from Poland did not hide the fact that she was afraid to go out into the street in jeans and without a head covering. Other reporters fled Gaza in terror without saying a word. We have been left with no source of income,” he said sadly.

David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2007

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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