The following are excerpts from articles which appeared in the Egyptian English weekly, “Al-Ahram” of Al-Ahram Weekly 8th – 15th April, 1998

Close Up — “Boiling Over”
by Salama A. Salama

The Palestinian Authority (PA), for reasons of its own, has in the past few days offered three different versions of killing of Hamas bombing expert Mohideddin Al-Sharif, finally exonerating the Israeli intelligence services from the charge of having assassinated Al-Sharif, throwing the blame instead on financial and political strife within the ranks of Hamas.

… The absence of compelling evidence absolving Israel of Al-Sharif’s murder should be weighed against the compelling circumstantial evidence in favor of its involvement, The Israeli intelligence services have been hunting Al-Sharif for months — even years.

… Sharif may have been killed by Israeli agents, or possibly by the double agents active throughout the Palestinian political spectrum. This time, through its constant denials, Israel seems to be giving itself away.

Since its establishment, Israel has commonly resorted to assassination as an expedient means to its policy ends. By assassinating Ayyash, Israel triggered retaliatory suicide bombings which claimed 60 lives, precipitated the downfall of Peres and the accession of Netanyahu and the Likud, and put an end to the peace process.

… US efforts to urge Israelis and Palestinians to exercise self-restraint are totally unrealistic. Such US endeavors only buttress Israeli state terrorism and prevent the Palestinians from retaliating or evening the score, since Hizbullah in southern Lebanon has taught Israel the dangers of such retaliation.

Hamas may have complied recently with the Palestinian Authority’s urging that it suspend operations against Israel, in the hope that some progress would be achieved. But with the assassination of one of its leaders, threats to escalate the violence against Israel would be fully justified. Does Israel truly want to see an end to violence against its own people? Does it seek to help the Palestinian Authority abide by its commitments in security guarantees, which Israel uses as a pretext for its reluctance to withdraw from Palestinian land? On the contrary, it is quite clear that Israel seeks to maintain a certain level of insecurity and violence, beyond its genuine security needs. Without this process of violence and counterviolence, Israel cannot sustain its occupation of Palestinian land on any grounds. In other words, when the Palestinians refrain from violence, Israel deliberately incites their fury — precisely the situation created by Al-Sharif’s assassination.

“Waiting for Hamas”
by Graham Usher

[Heading:] The Palestinian Authority has exonerated Israel from responsibility for the killing of Hamas military leader, Mohieddin Al-Sharif. Much will depend on Hamas’ next move writes Graham Usher from Jerusalem.

The Israeli government is adamant that it had “no hand” in the death of Hamas military leader, Mohieddin Al-Sharif, whose dismembered corpse was found beside a wrecked car in Ramallah on 29 March. Once it became known that the victim was Al-Sharif — wanted by Israelis as the alleged “second engineer” behind the suicide operations that have rocked Israel in recent years — Israel has spared no channel to convey to Yasser Arafat that it was not involved and that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would be held “responsible” for any reprisals against Israelis by Hamas or its military arm, Ezzeddin Al-Qassam. Madeleine Albright too has reportedly told the Palestinian leader that “any terror attack now would destroy the peace process.”

Arafat probably understands this better than Israel or the Americans. He is also aware that Israeli disclaimers and American warnings are likely to cut little ice with Palestinian public opinion.

On Thursday, thousands of Palestinians attended Al-Sharif’s funeral…. Although Hamas supporters led the procession, many of those present were nationalists known for their support of the peace process, including the PLO’s head of Jerusalem affairs, Faisal Al-Husseini.

… The fact that the PA’s official account of Al-Sharif’s killing now seems to coincide with Netanyahu’s is unlikely to lessen Hamas’s suspicions. Nor is it likely to avert Hamas’s expected response…

… Yehia Ayyash was the “first engineer”, allegedly responsible for a wave of suicide attacks inside Israel in 1994 and 1995. Following his certain Israeli sponsored death in Gaza in 1996, Ezzeddin Al-Quassam responded with suicide attacks in Jerusalem and Ashkelon that left 45 Israelis dead, brought the peace process to its knees and effectively lost the elections for Shimon Peres’s Labour Party.

With Netanyahu and Likud in power, Arafat is aware that any repeat of such vengeance will draw consequences even more mortal for the Oslo process.

The PA’s conclusion that Al-Sharif was killed by members of his own movement, if true, is thus a denouement that will be welcomed by Israel and Arafat alike. But if Hamas rejects this conclusion, then the likelihood is that “revenge” will still be the price of Al-Sharif’s death for the Israelis. As for the political consequences of such retaliation, this, almost certainly, will be the PA’s price to pay.