Hamas Increases Iranian Ties, Plans Release of Ze´evi Assassins

In its first actions heading the Palestinian Authority, Hamas plans on releasing the murderers of Tourism Minister Rechevam Ze'evi, increasing ties with Iran and closing the Jericho casino.

Ezra HaLevi , | updated: 8:52 AM

Hamas reached an agreement with the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, whereby Ze'evi's assassins would be released from a prison in Jericho. They have been held there under international supervision since soon after the assassination, which took place at Jerusalem's Hyatt Hotel on October 17, 2001.

Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz warned that the release of the murderers would bring about a severe Israeli response, but declined to outline what such a response would include. "This is a blatant violation of the agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and we will not let this pass," Mofaz said. "[Palestinian Authority Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas must intervene immediately to stop this."

The PA released 50 prisoners from the same Jericho prison last week, with no comment from Abbas.

PLO chairman Abbas said Monday that his Fatah group was now engaging in talks with Hamas about the possibility of joining a Hamas-led government. "If we have common ground, Fatah will have to join the government, in the interest of the Palestinian people," Abbas told the US-financed al-Hura TV channel.

One of the other prisoners to be released is Fuad Shubaki, formerly Yasser Arafat's financial adviser. Shubaki was responsible for funding suicide bomb attacks against Israeli civilians, and arranging the purchase of the large weapons cache seized by the IDF aboard the Karin A ship in January 2002.

The Oasis Casino in Jericho was the topic of much speculation regarding the financial incentives and conflicts of interest among those originally involved in formulating and signing the Oslo Accords. The opening of a casino in Israel had long been opposed in the Knesset, but when Gaza and Jericho were handed over to the PA, the casino immediately opened under special license from the nascent authority. Gambling is against Islamic law, so the casino was only open to Israeli and western clients; the millions they spent there went to fund the PA and its investors.

The casino was closed in September 2000, shortly after the outbreak of the Oslo War. Hamas sources now say there is no chance the casino will reopen its doors as anything other than a mosque.

Hamas officials say they are not concerned by the withholding of tax monies by Israel and lack of funding from the United States. Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khameini issued a call for all Muslim nations to provide annual financial support to the Hamas-led PA, adding that the money would bolster the group's refusal to recognize Israel. Khameini made the statement during a two-day visit to Iran by Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal.

Arab League Foreign Ministers met Monday in Algiers in an attempt to reenact a failed funding plan originally agreed upon in 2002 that would have provided the PA with some $50 million a month. The Arab countries that agreed to the aid simply did not follow through at the time. "Cutting the aid is very serious issue. It is an attempt to starve the Palestinians and a recipe for chaos," Mohammed Sobeih, Secretary-General Amr Moussa's deputy told The Associated Press.

The Muslim Brotherhood Islamic group, which is active in nearly every Arab and Muslim country, said it would embark on a large-scale fundraising campaign on behalf of Hamas and its attempts to wipe out the Jewish State.

The government of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert actually decided to allow Arabs from Gaza, Judea and Samaria to continue to enter Israel's pre-1967 borders in order to find work. The Cabinet also decided to allow and facilitate continue humanitarian assistance by all of the scores of aid organizations operating in the region.

Facing criticism for the government's unwillingness to cut electricity to the PA or even bar Arabs from Gaza from entering Israel to work, Olmert downplayed the rise of Hamas. "There is no reason to terrify the State of Israel by claiming that the sky has fallen," Olmert said, calling fellow politicians such as Binyamin Netanyahu "fear-mongers."