TEL AVIV – Members of Hamas are debating whether to carry out attacks against the United States and may hit American targets if the U.S. continues to support Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for new elections, Hamas leaders told WND in a series of interviews.
“There is no doubt that Abu Mazen (Abbas) was encouraged to decide early elections after receiving American promises to support him politically and military,” Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, the group’s declared “resistance” department, told WND.
The terror leader accused the U.S. of instigating a Palestinian civil war.
“Here the Americans did not support the elections, they actually gave their support and their encouragement to a Palestinian civil war. It is our duty to prove to the Americans that they chose the wrong policy exactly like it is the case in Iraq,” said Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ so-called military wing.
Abu Abdullah told WND Hamas has not yet decided to attack the U.S., “but one cannot guarantee that this will be the situation if the conspiracy of chasing our government succeeds.”
Asked which U.S. targets Hamas would hit, Abu Abdullah replied, “Do you think that I can give you an answer to this question? I can say that the Middle East is full of American targets and the world has had the occasion to learn what are the weapons of the anti-American forces in the region.”
In a move widely seen as an attempt to dismantle the Hamas-led government, Abbas’ this past weekend called for new Palestinian elections, prompting violent clashes in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party.
Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in January, has threatened to boycott the proposed new elections, calling them “illegitimate.”
Hamas-Fatah clashes in Gaza have killed at least 16 Palestinians the past five days.
According to multiple reports, the U.S. has been arming and training Fatah militants to bolster them in clashes against Hamas.
A number of Hamas members, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, have claimed in recent days Abbas’ call for new elections was orchestrated with the U.S.
Meetings held to debate attacks on U.S.
Several Hamas leaders told WND meetings were held in recent weeks in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to discuss the possibility of targeting the U.S. due to its perceived support of Fatah against Hamas.
Abu Abdullah told WND Hamas’ political decision for now is to try to convince the international community, including the U.S., they must “recognize and respect the democratic choices of the Palestinian people and to respect its government.”
But, he said, if new elections indeed are held, “I would not be surprised if a change takes place in our present policy regarding attacks against American targets in the region.”
“We are saying that in case of a scenario where elections are something concrete and not a political threat like it seems to be now, there is a real possibility that resistance forces in the region will hit American targets. The U.S. is maintaining its support to the idea of the elections and so is the American servant (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair,” Abu Abdullah said.
Abbas yesterday said a national unity government between his party and Hamas was still possible, but that for now he was forging ahead with his call for new elections. As PA president, he has the authority to order new ballots.
After almost a week of fighting that saw top members of both factions targeted, Fatah and Hamas yesterday agreed to a truce and began withdrawing militants from the streets. But hours after the cease-fire was declared, Hamas gunmen killed two Fatah police officers, sparking a new round of clashes.
Experts: Hamas capable of attacks inside U.S.
While the latest Hamas threats warned of attacks against American interests in the region, some terrorism experts and senior security officials previously told WND Hamas has cells inside the U.S. that are technically capable of attacking within the country.
“We have information Hamas agents have been on U.S. soil the past few years and that the group may currently have up to 100 agents operating inside America,” an FBI counterterrorism agent in New York told WND last October.
The comments reaffirm earlier testimony to the U.S. Senate in which FBI Director Robert Mueller stated, “Although it would be a major strategic shift for Hamas, its United States network is theoretically capable of facilitating acts of terrorism in the United States.”
Mueller last February described a Hamas network the FBI believes may be operating in the U.S. mostly for fundraising purposes. While many suspected Hamas-linked charities such as the national Holy Land Foundation have been shut down, the FBI suspects others are still functioning in the U.S.
Holy Land, once one of the largest Islamic charitable organizations in the U.S., closed amid accusations the group was a front for Hamas.
Intelligence sources said the FBI believes Hamas’ current U.S. network includes trained jihadists capable of carrying out advanced attacks. Some of the Hamas agents are suspected of involvement with al-Qaida, the sources said.
Yehudit Barsky, director of the Middle East and International Terrorism Center at the American Jewish Committee, said, “Hamas does have people in America who are Muslim Brotherhood-oriented who support Hamas and who could carry out attacks. … This presence in the U.S. exists.”
Terrorism expert Steve Emerson, whose research was credited with helping to close Holy Land, told WND, “Hamas has an extensive infrastructure in the U.S. mostly revolving around the activities of fundraising, recruiting and training members, directing operations against Israel, organizing political support and operating through human-rights front groups. While Hamas has not acted outside Israel, it has the capability of carrying out attacks in America if it decided to enlarge the scope of its operations.”
There have been previous indications Hamas indeed has agents operating inside the U.S.
In August 2004, Ismail Selim Elbarasse, a long-time Hamas money man, was arrested reportedly after authorities witnessed his wife videotaping Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge from their SUV as Elbarasse drove. The images captured by Mr. Elbarasse’s wife included close-ups of cables and other features “integral to the structural integrity of the bridge,” according to court papers.
In an FBI affidavit requesting a search warrant for Elbarasse’s house obtained by WND, special FBI agent Shawn Devroude states, “In previous years, al-Qaida commanders and officials stationed in Western countries, including the United States, have recruited Hamas operatives and volunteers to carry out reconnaissance or serve as couriers.
“With the increased law enforcement pressure since 9-11, there has been a renewed emphasis by al-Qaida to find confirmed jihadist supporters in the U.S. by trying to enlist proven members of other groups such as Hamas to make up for the vacuum on the field level.”
Also in August 2004, two suspected high-level Hamas operatives, Mohammed Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, were detained in the U.S. and charged with providing material support to Hamas, racketeering and money laundering.
Ashqar, under house arrest in Virginia, denied to WND he was involved with Hamas fundraising and claimed doesn’t know of any Hamas networks operating in America.
In November 2003, Jamal Aqal, a Canadian immigrant born in Gaza, was arrested in Israel under suspicion of receiving weapons and explosives training from Hamas for use in future terror attacks in Canada and New York City. Aqal pleaded guilty in 2004 to planning to kill American and Canadian Jewish leaders and Israeli officials traveling in the U.S.
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