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FOCUS: INTERVIEW
Hamas: Mabhouh was long-time target
A senior Hamas official speaks to Al Jazeera about the Dubai assassination.
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2010 10:28 GMT
Al-Mabhouh was found dead in his Dubai hotel room on January 19 [EPA]

The assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official, in Dubai on January 19, has been making headlines in international media. 

Dubai police blame the killing on Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.  

Al-Mabhouh was a military commander in Hamas' military wing of Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. He founded Unit 101, which was dedicated to abducting Israeli combatants.

In 1988, he was personally responsible for abducting and killing two Israeli soldiers.

Al-Mabhouh has been an Israeli target ever since.   

Al Jazeera interviewed Osama Hamdan, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, and asked him about the al-Mabhouh's assassination and other issues.

Al Jazeera: What was al-Mabhouh doing in Dubai?

Hamdan: All that I can say is that he was doing his job.

Is there an ongoing internal investigation by your movement to identify what went wrong?

It is our policy to open intensive investigations into assassination operations against the movement's members. We believe that such investigations help in revealing facts, and at the same time help us diagnose what went wrong.

Do you have solid evidence regarding Israeli involvement in the killing of al-Mabhouh?

We said from the beginning that the Mossad [Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations] is involved. That was not a reaction, it was a statement based on information we possessed. Also, we have Dubai police confirmation.

Hamdan claims that the US has interest in keeping Palestinians divided [EPA] 

More importantly, look at the reaction of the countries whose passports were used by the assassination squad.

Why do all of them blame Israel for using their citizens' passports? Why did they blame no one but Israel? Isn't that a confirmation that Mossad's role was clear enough in the operation?

But Israel has denied its involvement in the assassination.

It is normal that Israel says it has nothing to do with the assassination. The thing is, we have some Israeli citizens saying that their names and identities were used by the assassins.

If Israel is not involved, why hasn't there been an Israeli investigation about the citizens' claims? Why is it keeping silent?      

Do you think the security measures taken to protect al-Mabhouh's identity, like removing his family name from the passport, were enough to protect him?

Security measures are a series of procedures, and removing the family name from the martyr's passport was one of the security measures taken to protect him. 

Do you know how the Israelis broke in?

I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Also, we tend to avoid rapid and emotional statements.

Israel has announced it will add two sites in the occupied West Bank to its list of national heritage sites. The sites are the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron, and Bilal bin Rabah Mosque (Rachel's Tomb) in Bethlehem.

Do you see the Israeli move as an escalation by the right-wing government, or is it just a step in a long process of Israeli confiscation of Arab and Islamic heritage?

It is both. Israel has been stealing Palestinian and Arab culture in all forms and aspects. They even stole our traditional dishes like Humus and Falafel and claimed them for themselves.

When it comes to religion, Israel has a plan in changing the nature of Islamic sites and turn them into Jewish sites in a way that serves what they call the Judaisation of the state (of Israel).

The process of swallowing the Ibrahimi Mosque started with a request to put a candle holder inside it. After the massacre that took place in the mosque in 1994 by the Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein, they divided the mosque between them and the Palestinians. Today, they are confiscating the whole mosque. So we can see there is a pattern. 

in depth
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  'To Israel I am stained with blood' - Al-Mabhouh speaks to Al Jazeera 10 months before his murder

The confiscation is also an escalation. Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, felt strong enough to do it for two reasons; First, he won his battle against the US over a settlement freeze.

Second, he knows he can get away with it because Arab states and the Palestinians are helpless.

What is happening in Hebron is sort of a test balloon, for what the Israelis are doing in Jerusalem in terms of wiping out Arabs and Muslims and seizing the whole city. 

How long do you think the Palestinian people have to wait before seeing Palestinian reconciliation?

The main obstacle that remains now is US pressure, which led to the changes in the Egyptian paper that we rejected.

What is the US pressuring for?

The US wants the Palestinians to stay divided. Apparently, the US government does not want the Palestinians to be united and consequently reach an agreement with the Israelis, because if that happens Israel would be obliged to do its part of the deal and that would require US pressure.

Who chose Egypt as negotiator? 

There is no doubt that Egypt has been closely involved in the Palestinian issue. The late Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat] himself asked for Egyptian mediation several times. Egypt always responded to calls for a role to bring Hamas and Fatah closer, and there were other Arab countries helping in that regard.

After the big fall out between Hamas and Fatah in 2006, there was an Arab decision in the last Arab summit (Doha, March 2009) that Egypt would be the mediator between Hamas and Fatah.

I think, after all this time and several sessions of negotiations, we should ask ourselves how can we help the mediator to achieve his mission.

Do you think it would be more beneficial if some other mediator steps in and helps Egypt in its efforts to bring Hamas and Fatah to reconciliation?

Definitely. The thing is, the more Arab countries are involved the stronger they get in resisting pressure. The other thing is, those countries as a league can be more effective in supervising and overseeing the implementation of the reconciliation agreement's terms when it takes place.

At the end of the day, if a mediator cannot achieve a mission for almost a year, then some aid should be seriously considered.

The discord between Hamas and Fatah has been going on for years and that affected every aspect of the Palestinian cause. Do not you think that the problem might be in your movement? Has Hamas, at some point, reviewed its performance and applied some self-criticism?

"The big disappointment is that Obama's administration has started to follow George Bush’s approach."

Osama Hamdan

We do have a revision policy. We reviewed our performance just one year after we won the elections. We analysed everything. We do that constantly, but it is true we do not make that public, I can give you that.  

However, I think any observer can sense the change in Hamas' techniques and performance if he/she does an objective evaluation of our performance.  

How do you see Hamas' relations with Arab states?

It varies from acceptable to strong. I can say that after the shock of the 2006 elections, Hamas' relations with the Arab world have been growing stronger.

But do you not think that your strong ties with Iran are blocking stronger bonds between you and many Arab states?

I think the Palestinian cause needs support, from Arabs, Muslims and maybe the whole world. The Iranian support should be a motive for Arabs to provide even greater support.

The Iranian role in Iraq was not very pleasant, many Arabs have become cynical about Iran; How can Iran be supportive to some Arabs like Palestinians and aggressive against others like Iraqis?

It is at the core of our principles that we reject any threat to the national security of any Arab country. Supporting Palestinians should not justify wrongdoing to any other Arab country.

It has been more than a year since Barack Obama took over as US president. Has there been any change in the US approach toward the Palestinian cause?

Obama’s approach was positive in the beginning. Many were under the impression that he would bring some sort of change. Speaking now, Obama has failed to bring any sort of change and that led to a state of depression among Palestinians and parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The big disappointment is that Obama's administration has started to follow George Bush’s approach.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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