Whatever becomes of its efforts for revenge, Hamas has become weaker and clearly divided following the Israeli assassination of Ahmed Yassin, opening the door for support from Iran, reports Geostrategy-Direct, the global intelligence news service.

Within a week of Yassin’s death, Hamas already has been wracked over who will lead the organization and where will the money come from.

The feud within the normally united organization pits Yassin’s chief aide, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, against Khaled Masha’al. Both claim leadership within the organization and both are seeking outside support.

Masha’al and Rantisi are virulently anti-American. The latter has declared President Bush to be the enemy of Hamas and Islam. The fiery and threatening rhetoric could signal Rantisi’s assessment that his future and the organization’s funding source lies with Iran.

“We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims,” Rantisi told thousands of Hamas supporters Sunday in Gaza City.

“America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon. The war of God continues against them, and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas.”

Yassin’s strength was in raising money. In the 1960s, he started his Islamic proselytizing in the Gaza Strip to stem the spread of Western values. He opened a mosque and began receiving money from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states.

After Israel captured the Gaza Strip in 1967, Yassin continued to work quietly in Gaza mosques. This resulted in accusations from the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Yasser Arafat, that Yassin collaborating with Israel. But Yassin’s agenda was long term and in 1982 he was already forming a terrorist infrastructure.

Israel arrested Yassin and sentenced him to 13 years. In 1985, Yassin was released in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command led by Syrian Army Capt. Ahmed Jibril.

By the end of 1987, Hamas had become the leading terrorist group in the Gaza Strip. Hamas organized the first Palestinian uprising and sent tens of thousands of young people to battle Israel during the next five years.

In 1994, Yassin faced Arafat who arrived in the Gaza Strip under the accord by Israel and the PLO. Arafat foiled most attempts by Hamas to attack Israel.

For his part, Yassin restrained Hamas, saying he didn’t want a fight with Arafat.

Now, Yassin’s death is seen as an opportunity for Iran to move into the vacuum. Control over a Sunni Muslim group would be a huge feather in Teheran’s cap and could help target Washington’s allies in the Middle East.

“The biggest issue of the Islamic world today is the martyrdom of Sheik Ahmed Yassin,” said Iran’s Ayatollah Mohammed Imami Kishani, a prominent cleric.

Masha’al’s support comes mainly from Qatar, whose ruling sheiks have provided Hamas with safe haven as well as millions of dollars. Qatar also has lobbied for Masha’al with Arab countries, the United States and Europe.

Rantisi doesn’t have such a powerful Arab ally. Indeed, his rhetoric and bloody attacks have alarmed Saudi Arabia, the biggest supporter of Hamas.

Rantisi has made enemies in the Palestinian Authority and is regarded as a serious threat to chairman Yasser Arafat.

Arafat has responded subtly by curtailing Hamas’ revenue streams. Arafat has refused to unfreeze 39 bank accounts linked to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Last week, the Palestinian High Court ordered the unfreezing of the accounts of nine Hamas-aligned charities said to have funded terrorist groups.

In August 2003, the PA froze 39 accounts – including those of Al Jamiya Al Islamiya, A-Salah, Islamic Young Women’s Association, Social Care Committee, Islamic Charity for Zakat and Al Aqsa Charity Association – under pressure from the United States.

Palestinian sources and analysts said the tens of millions of dollars relayed by the Saudi kingdom every year to Hamas stem from the close ties of the royal family to Yassin. Saudi rulers will find it harder to deal with either Rantisi or Masha’al, they said.

And that’s where Iran comes in.


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