Yedioth Aharonot (June 22, 2003)(p. 2) by Roni Shaked — Israel settled an open account yesterday with Abdullah Abed Elkader Kawasme, 35, the number one Hamas wanted man in the West Bank, who was responsible for the murder of 52 Israelis and the injury of dozens more. Border Police SWAT troops shot him dead yesterday evening in central Hebron.

Kawasme served as the commander of Hamas’s military wing in Hebron in the past two years and was directly responsible for the death of dozens of Israelis, including the passengers aboard bus no. 14 in Jerusalem on June 11, this year.

At around 10:00 in the evening Kawasme finished his night prayers at the al-Ansar mosque and began to drive down al-Salam (Peace) street in downtown Hebron. SWAT team members who were waiting on the side of the street for him, identified Kawasme and opened fire on him from a number of guns, killing him with automatic gunfire on the spot. Large numbers of back-up troops quickly arrived on the scene after the shooting and began to scour the area for Kawasme’s fellow terror cell members, who were suspected of being in the area at the same time.

Sources in Hebron said that the SWAT team members arrived in the vicinity of the mosque in three vehicles, and Kawasme was identified once the worshipers began to disperse, whereupon he was shot and killed. The sources said that the IDF immediately shut down the mosque to search for additional suspects. They noted that Kawasme’s central ability was bomb-building. “He was a classic example of a ticking bomb. This is the targeted killing of a ticking bomb,” said security officials who were pleased by the elimination of the arch-terrorist who threatened to produce additional bombing attacks. A terrorist that the security forces have been pursuing for over two years.

Kawasme, married and the father of six, began his terrorist activities in the early 1990s. He was deported along with the other 415 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists to Lebanon in late December 1992. In Lebanon he underwent military training at the hands of Iranian Republican Guardsmen and was trained to serve as a “munitions expert” with Hamas. Upon his return, Kawasme was arrested by Israel and was released in 1998. After news was received that he was planning bombing attacks he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority, but was released from prison with the eruption of the Intifada.

IDF sources said last night that the object of the mission was not to kill Kawasme, but to arrest him. He was shot dead while trying to evade arrest. The troops had no choice but to open fire, and he was killed while resisting arrest.

The killing was committed while discussions are still underway to achieve a hudna (a cease-fire). The Palestinian factions have insisted that Israel desist from targeted killing operations as a precondition for a hudna. That is also a fundamental demand that has been made by the Palestinian Authority and its prime minister, Abu Mazen. PA officials responded angrily to the death of Kawasme, saying: “the goal of the assassination was to destroy any possibility of reaching a Palestinian agreement about a hudna.”

[Ma’ariv quoted security sources who said that Kawasme pulled a gun and as a result was shot dead.]

A “Kosher” Operation

Yediot Aharonot (June 22,2003) (p. 2) by Alex Fishman (news analysis) — Israel’s patience is wearing thin. While the killing of Kawasme yesterday in Hebron was a legitimate attempt to cope with a “ticking bomb,” beyond that it also served as a direct message to the Palestinian Authority: Israel has no intention of sitting and waiting for someone in the PA to decide to stop selling everyone excuses and to begin taking responsibility for security in PA territory.

Even by the definitions of the US administration, Kawasme was, by all opinions, a “kosher target.” In his case there was no room to wax philosophical over the question of whether this was a “targeted killing operation,” which the Americans find unacceptable, or the necessary treatment of a “ticking bomb.” The man was responsible for a Hamas terror cell in Hebron that produced dozens of Israeli dead and injured in the past few months, including the bus no. 14 suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem. Moreover, his elimination was secured with “surgical” precision. It caused no collateral damage, just the way Uncle Sam lets us kill.

Two weeks before the Akaba summit Palestinian Authority officials said they needed two weeks to assume security responsibility. After Akaba they asked for another two weeks. On Friday they asked US Secretary of State Colin Powell for another few weeks. It is beginning to look like a snow job.

The shooting attacks on road 60 in the Beit El and Ofra area, which in just the past week have resulted in the death of two Israelis, are carried out by a terror cell that is comprised jointly of Fatah-Tanzim and Hamas members. In Gaza, Fatah is trying to engage Hamas in dialogue about a cease-fire and on road 60 they are engaged in productive cooperation and shoot at Israelis together. It is no wonder that the Israelis’ patience is wearing thin. And that is exactly what Hamas is waiting for. For that very same Israeli outburst that will allow them to break free and to evade reaching a cease-fire agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

The security talks underway between Israel and the PA about the transfer of security responsibility are at the same point as the dialogue between the PA and Hamas: they are both on a flight to nowhere. Hamas is dragging its feet in its dealings with Abu Mazen, and Mohammed Dahlan is dragging his feet in his dealings with Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, so that no agreement is reached and nothing happens.

Last Tuesday,Israel presented the PA with three conditions for transferring security responsibility for specific areas to the PA. 1) Israel will provide the PA with the names of wanted men, and the PA will undertake to arrest them within 24 hours. 2) The road that runs along the length of the Gaza Strip will remain under Israel security responsibility. 3) The Palestinian demand for security responsibility over Netzarim junction and Gush Katif junction is unacceptable. Dahlan pounced on these conditions as if they were a valuable treasure and turned them into his excuse for doing nothing. On Thursday the new American envoy, John Wolf, had to drag Dahlan by the ear to get him to the talks with Israel. Talks that ultimately produced nothing.

In the course of his visit to the region, Secretary of State Colin Powell demanded that the Palestinian Authority assume security responsibility not merely over a few areas but over the entire Gaza Strip and Bethlehem, and that they do so immediately. But the Abu Mazen government is doing its utmost to bypass, to buy time, until Hamas agrees to a cease-fire….