Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 22, 2004

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In-Depth Issues:

Who Was Ahmad Yassin?
    Ahmad Yassin was founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and its military wing, Izz al-Dinn al-Qassam, which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, since the 1990s.
    An Israeli court convicted Yassin in 1989 of ordering Hamas members to kidnap and kill two Israeli soldiers.
    Yassin opposed the previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and maintained that eliminating Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in Palestine was a religious duty.
    In his public message to the Muslim world on the occasion of Eid al-Adha (February 19, 2002), Yassin clearly justified the jihad against the U.S. in Muslim and Arab countries on the basis of Islamic law.
    Jihad against America is a positive commandment in every respect and is the realization of "the right of self-defense" against "the Crusaders' war" and the terrorist war waged by the U.S. against the nation of Islam in Afghanistan and against the Islamic jihad movements in the world.
    Yassin encouraged Muslims to perform jihad and to prepare for an extended battle against the U.S., promising that the current century, the twenty-first, is the "Islamic century, the century of liberation, victory, and the fulfillment of potential."
    From "New Radical Islamic Thinking Justifying the Genocide of Infidels" - Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    See also Yassin Personally Authorized Woman Bomber (Daily Alert, 16 Jan 04)
    Reem Salah al-Rayashi, 21, approached Hamas several times with the request to be a suicide bomber. "She practically begged," an Arab affairs reporter told Israel TV Channel 2.
    The Hamas leadership repeatedly spurned her requests, until Sheikh Yassin himself intervened.
    Yassin personally gave his blessing for al-Rayashi to be used as a bomber, and issued a decree (a few hours after the suicide bombing at the Erez crossing in Gaza on January 14, 2004, in which four Israelis were killed) that "Jihad was the duty of men and women."  (Jerusalem Post)

Report: Al-Qaeda Has Black Market Nuclear Bombs (Sydney Morning Herald)
    Pakistani journalist Hamad Mir, bin Laden's biographer, said bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, claimed al-Qaeda has bought ready-made nuclear bombs on the black market.
    "Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri said 'Mr Mir., if you have $30 million, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist, and a lot briefcase bombs are available,'" Mir said.
    "They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other central Asian states, and they negotiated, and we purchased some suitcase bombs."

Eyewitness: The Policewoman Who Found the Palestinian Boy with the Bomb - Sari Makover-Blikov (Maariv-Hebrew, 19 Mar 04)
    Military police Pvt. Moran Bukent, 19, performs security checks at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus.
    "Many Palestinian children work as porters at the checkpoint to earn money," she says.
    "When Abdallah Quran reached my station, I thought his backpack seemed awfully heavy for such a small kid."
    "When we dumped out the contents of the backpack on the table, I saw a cardboard box with three white electric wires. I put everything on the ground and called the commander, then moved everyone away from the area."
    "When they blew up the bomb there was a huge blast that left a large hole in the ground and spread nuts and bolts and ball bearings everywhere. It destroyed the checkpoint."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Leader Sheik Yassin Killed in Israeli Strike
    Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader and founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, was killed Monday by an Israeli missile in Gaza City. Hamas is officially committed to Israel's destruction, not only a withdrawal from the territories. (New York Times)
        See also Hamas Chief Killed in IAF Strike in Gaza - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    Witnesses said Israeli helicopters fired three missiles at Yassin's car. Yassin was killed instantly and up to seven bodyguards were also said to have been killed. Army Radio reported that the decision to kill Yassin was taken following the March 14 double suicide bombing at the Ashdod port in which 10 Israelis were killed. Prime Minister Sharon oversaw the entire operation, receiving constant updates from military officials. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Mofaz: "Ahmad Yassin Was the Palestinian Bin Laden" - Atila Shumplevi and Ilan Marciano
    "Ahmad Yassin was the Palestinian bin Laden. His hands are covered with Israeli blood. The action taken today is part of a comprehensive effort against terror - and the war on Hamas will continue," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • Britain and France Condemn Yassin Killing
    Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Monday that Israel "is not entitled to go for this kind of unlawful killing, and we therefore condemn it....It's unacceptable, it's unjustified, and it's very unlikely to achieve its objective." French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said: "France condemns the action against Sheikh Yassin. At a time when it is important to mobilize for the relaunch of the peace process, such acts can only fuel the cycle of violence." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said all sides should contribute to avoiding further escalation. (Reuters)
        See also U.S. Official Urges Calm after Hamas Killing
    In Washington, a senior State Department official said: "We urge all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint." The official said the U.S. was in touch with Israeli and Palestinian authorities. (Reuters)
  • Hamas Eyes Takeover If Israelis Leave Gaza - Mahmoud Habboush and Corky Siemaszko
    Hamas, the militant group specializing in suicide bombings, is poised to take over the Gaza Strip the minute Israel withdraws its troops, Palestinian sources say. Hamas leader Sheik Yassin announced recently that he already has a plan to administer Gaza. Maj. Gen. Saeb Al-Ajez, the PA's security commander in the northern Gaza Strip, admitted he can no longer count on the loyalty of all his men. Just last year, Al-Ajez said he discovered 100 of his security officers were also in cahoots with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. (New York Daily News)
  • Preaching Poison, Palestinian Clerics Encourage Child-Martyrdom - Steven Stalinsky
    At least 29 suicide bombers younger than 18 years of age have been exploited into committing attacks by Palestinian terrorist organizations over the past few years. This past Monday an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was apprehended in Nablus with explosives to be used in another apparent suicide attack. The concept of educating children to become suicide bombers often appears in weekly Palestinian sermons by Khatibs (preachers) who are paid employees of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The sermons are broadcast live every Friday at noon from mosques under control of the PA and are shown on PA television. (National Review)
        See also below Eyewitness: The Policewoman Who Found the Boy with the Bomb
  • Powell Urges Syrian Pullout from Lebanon
    Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday, "We have always made it clear that we would like to see Syria withdraw from Lebanon, for Lebanon to enjoy full sovereignty over its land and over its people." "We have always encouraged Lebanon to extend its army, for example, to the south, all the way to the border with Israel in order to provide security in that part of the country," Powell said. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Preparing War on Hamas - Herb Keinon
    The Defense Ministry is preparing a systematic war against Hamas, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet Sunday. "The defense establishment deems it important to weaken this organization, which is a strategic enemy of Israel, especially as we approach disengagement from the Gaza Strip," he said. Mofaz said it was decided to counter the recent wave of terrorism with a wave of continuous pressure against the terrorist organizations. The bulk of this effort will be directed at Hamas and Tanzim, which Mofaz said is increasingly being supported by Hizballah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: U.S. Won't Recognize Major Settlement Blocs - Herb Keinon
    A planned meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush will be postponed until mid-April due to the American refusal to recognize the legitimacy of major West Bank settlement blocs, such as Gush Etzion and Ma'ale Adumim, following a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported. One senior diplomatic official said the U.S. is waiting to see whether the plan has a chance of passing the cabinet before endorsing it, while the cabinet ministers are waiting to see what commitments and guarantees the U.S. will deliver before deciding whether to support the plan. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Netanyahu Sets Conditions for Supporting Disengagement Plan - Menahem Rahat and Eliel Shahar
    At a meeting Sunday between Prime Minister Sharon and Likud ministers, Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced his conditions for supporting the plan. These included the continuation of a determined, unconditional military counter-offensive to terror, U.S acceptance of a security barrier route in which clusters of settlements remain on the Israeli side, and U.S. acknowledgement that the Palestinian right of return has expired.
        On Sunday at an economic forum in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu added another condition: Completing the construction of the counter-terrorism barrier from the Gilboa region in the north to Mount Hebron in the south before a withdrawal is carried out. Netanyahu added that the Ariel settlement bloc, Gush Etzion, and Ma'ale Adumim must be on the Israeli side of the barrier. According to Netanyahu, senior Bush administration officials expressed concern that the disengagement plan would encourage terrorism. "Israel cannot be viewed as rewarding terror," he said, adding that implementing the plan without the conditions he had outlined would "endanger Israel's future existence."  (
  • Ax-Wielding Palestinian Wounds Three in Ramat Gan - Roni Singer
    "A man from the Palestinian territories got out of a car and attacked three people with an axe" on Monday, a police officer told Israel Radio. Two men and a woman were wounded. (Ha'aretz)
        Maariv reported that the attacker was an Israeli Arab. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Palestinian Terrorists Mistakenly Murder Jerusalem Arab - Arnon Regular, Amos Harel, and Jonathan Lis
    George Khoury, 20, a Christian Arab and the son of well-known attorney Elias Khoury, was shot to death from a passing vehicle Friday while jogging in the north Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill. Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade published a statement Saturday saying the killing was a case of "mistaken identity." (Ha'aretz)
  • Swedish Police Break Up Anti-Israel Riot
    Several hundred anti-Israel rioters ran amok in Stockholm Sunday as they tried to disrupt a pro-Israel rally. Israel Radio reported that rioters threw stones at police, vandalized stores, and broke windows including the facade of the local Israeli tourism bureau. Police broke up the riot, arresting dozens. The pro-Israel rally went ahead as planned. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Anti-Terror Advisor Warns Israelis: Don't Go to Sinai - Tal Muscal, Herb Keinon, and Amir Mizroch
    National Counter-terrorism Adviser Brig.-Gen. (res.) Daniel Arditi has warned of potential threats to Israelis traveling in the Sinai Peninsula, Istanbul, the Iran-Iraq-Turkey border area, Kashmir, all Arab countries, most Muslim countries, Palawan in the Philippines, and Phuket and a few areas of Bangkok in Thailand. "We have concrete warnings, that are based on real threats, requiring us to share them with the public," Arditi told Israel Radio. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Targeted Killings Can Save Lives - Tuvia Blumenthal
    The targeted killing of a terrorist, in the course of which ten innocent Palestinians are killed, is no less moral than a decision not to act, as a result of which the terrorist succeeds in carrying out a terrorist attack in which ten innocent Israelis are killed. Striking at the suicide bomber will prevent one attack, while striking at an "arch-terrorist" can prevent numerous attacks. The writer is a professor of economics at Ben-Gurion University. (Ha'aretz)
  • Terror is Losing - Paul Wolfowitz
    Since Baghdad was liberated, Iraqi security forces went from almost none to the 200,000 who currently serve in various security roles. Today, Iraqis who are fighting and dying for the "New Iraq" are numerically the largest member of the Coalition. They know the country and the language. They're the "home team" and enjoy tremendous popular support. It is heartening that they continue to volunteer in large numbers despite the enemy's attempts to frighten them. (New York Post)
        See also Creeping Democracy - William Safire
    Success of democracy in Iraq is the key to democratic reform throughout the greater Middle East. When that reform dawns in Ramallah, there can be an independent, contiguous Palestine. When creeping democracy gradually brings a better life to people of the region, the basis for hatred and terror will erode and the suicide bomber will pass from the scene. (New York Times)
  • The World of Megaterrorism - Andre Glucksmann
    Read carefully the statement that claimed responsibility for the Madrid massacres. Al-Qaeda puts everyone, from the Crusaders to the Jews, all countries who sent troops not just to Iraq but to Afghanistan as well, in their gun sights. In other words, all of Europe - Berlin and Paris, no less than Rome, London or Warsaw. France merits special condemnation for its ban on the Islamic veil in public schools. Mad is the European who thinks himself immune for having opposed Saddam Hussein's overthrow. No accommodation provides insurance against attack. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Why Israel Targeted Ahmad Yassin (Israel Foreign Ministry)

    • Hamas constitutes a primary element in the fabric of global terrorism, and has developed extensive ties with other terrorist groups around the world.
    • Yassin took advantage of his spiritual influence to indoctrinate his followers to commit hundreds of barbaric murders. The ruthless attacks he inspired and personally approved include:
      • The June 1, 2001, suicide bombing of a discotheque near Tel Aviv's Dolphinarium, killing 21 young people and wounding 120.
      • The March 27, 2002, suicide bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya. 30 people were killed and 140 injured in the midst of their Passover holiday "Seder" dinner.
      • The June 18, 2002, suicide bombing of a bus carrying students on their way to school in Jerusalem, killing 19 and injuring 74.
    • Yassin was a chilling example of a leader who cynically manipulated his followers and distorted lofty religious principles in order to recruit Palestinians, including children and women, to kill themselves in order to murder hundreds of Israeli civilians.
    • The operation against Yassin was not an act of vengeance. It was part of the ongoing Israeli effort to confront terrorism and its sources. The brutal Hamas terrorist campaign is aimed at killing as many Israelis as possible, in the pursuit of the ultimate Hamas goal of bringing about Israel's destruction.
    • Whoever is involved in the planning, orchestration, execution or leadership of terrorism must understand that Israel will not sit idly by and wait for the next suicide bomber to appear on the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. The government of Israel - like any other government - bears a fundamental responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens from the threat of terrorism.
    • While continuing its counter-terrorist operations, Israel will, at the same time, persevere in its efforts to arrive at a political solution based upon the implementation of the Roadmap. Peace can only be achieved once the Palestinian leadership confronts the terrorists in its midst, and renounces the use of violence as a tool to resolve political disagreements.
    • Israel has offered the Palestinians hope of achieving their aspirations, and has extended its hand in peace. Yet, it has received only an onslaught of terrorism in return. Today, Israel faces an ever-increasing terrorist threat, and in the face of this threat, Israel will continue to defend itself.

        See also IDF to Continue Targeting Hamas Leadership - Arieh O'Sullivan
    "Sheik Ahmad Yassin was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians," said OC Ground Forces Services Maj.-Gen. Yiftach Rontal. "As long as no one on the Palestinian side will fight terror, it is the IDF which will continue to fight, hitting everyone involved in terror, including its leaders," he said.
        IDF Spokesperson Ruth Yaron said, "We have to safeguard the lives of our babies, our children, and our civilians. Terrorists will try kill whenever they can, so we have to try and stop it whenever we can," Yaron said. "Yassin not only led Hamas ideologically and spiritually, but he also personally gave authorization for some of the suicide bombings and other attacks," a senior IDF military intelligence officer said Monday. (Jerusalem Post)

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