MARCH 12, 1996
Terrorism in the Middle East and the efforts to prevent it. On the eve of an international summit on terrorism we have two reports, one from the Middle East and one from Washington. The first is from Gaby Rado of Independent Television News, followed by our own Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
GABY RADO, ITN: The Israeli army has this week been carrying out highly publicized raids on the West Bank areas, where it's still able to operate, this one a village near Bethlehem. Nobody of great importance in the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, was arrested. The exercise was more a warning for Palestinians and a reassurance to Jewish public opinion. But the hard fact tomorrow's terrorism summit will have to face is that tough Israeli action is no longer enough. Karmi Gilon was until recently head of the Israeli Security Service, Sinn Bet. He says the Oslo peace plan created a new riskier twin-track policy on security.
KARMI GILON, Former Chief, Israel Security: Our strategy is a combination of our abilities fighting terrorism and the Palestinian abilities. We gave the Palestinian Authority the abilities by forces, by guns and so on, to fight terrorism, and it's part of this agreement.
GABY RADO: The Israelis have in the past week scored a number of intelligence successes. They recreate the bags carried by the last four suicide bombers with anti-tank mines and packets of ball bearings and nails which caused so much carnage. Though they didn't say as much, it left the claim by the Palestinian police in Gaza that they'd found a belt designed to carry sticks of explosive looking rather hollow. Whatever the skepticism on whether all the weapons captured were genuine, Yasser Arafat's security force has been at pains to show it is cooperating with Israel. It's carried out raids on buildings housing Islamic militant groups and suspects. The Israeli government initially questioned the Palestinian Authority's will to fight the extremists. Now, some 500 Hamas sympathizers are under arrest; it grudgingly accepts strong measures are being taken. Evidence exists of brutal methods by the Palestinian forces and some alleged use of torture. In their raids, the damage often appears wanton, and there's little to suggest that anything other than religious literature and humanitarian aid are found. The feeling on the impoverished, politically volatile streets is that Palestinian soldiers are simply doing the Israelis' dirty work.
MOUSSA EL ZABOUT, Palestinian Council: We are, indeed, afraid of what has become, say it is civil war, we are afraid that now, because these hundreds of Hamas which are arrested, and they know and the Authority know that they have nothing to do with the, with what will happen the last two weeks.
GABY RADO: This mosque was raided last week by Yasser Arafat's special forces. Attached to a wall facing the street, there are posters calling for a violent armed struggle. But behind the mosque, there is an Islamic school. It's a perfect illustration of the complex way Hamas has rooted itself into Gaza's authority, where ordinary people feel that it runs some of the best welfare institutions. In practice, the crackdown against Hamas is hampered by the broad-based nature of the organization. Its support from abroad comes under the label of funding for the Islamic cause, an integral part of which is the social and religious work carried out by Hamas. The fight for influence by the Islamic position's movement is waged on many fronts, militant and community- based. The radical Islamic fundamentalism of Hezbollah, based in Lebanon for a decade and a half, spurred on the growth of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad groups among Palestinians. The main source of funding for all three is known to be Iran, which pours some $100 million a year into this way of exporting its Islamic revolution. The money comes from a body controlled by the spiritual leader Ayatollah Khameni.
MENASHE AMIR, Israel Radio: The Iranians are inviting the Hamas and Jihad Islamic groups' leaders to come to Tehran every time that there is a very important thing to discuss about. Beside that, the Iranian delegates go to Damascus and Lebanon and to Beirut, and they meet the leaders of these organizations to talk about the planning of strategic moves and to give them financial support.
GABY RADO: But it's not just Iran. Tomorrow's summit will have to find ways of ending such funding from all sources.
SPOKESMAN: This morning's hearing will come to order.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Appearing before a Senate Foreign Operations Committee, FBI Director Louis Freeh confirmed that Hamas is actively raising money in the United States, but added, it has been difficult to track down just how that money is being used.
LOUIS FREEH, FBI Director: A lot of the information that we have obtained in this regard, as I mentioned, we have furnished to the Treasury Department and to the White House. Some of it comes from fairly sensitive sources, which I would certainly be happy to discuss with you outside of this session. But my view of the evidence, as I've seen it, indicates, one, there is fund-raising, two, it's very, very difficult from an evidentiary point of view to trace those funds to actual military or terrorist operations anywhere outside the United States.
SEN. MITCH McCONNELL, (R) Kentucky: Recently, Treasury announced that 800,000 in Hamas' assets affecting three individuals have been frozen since the executive order. If you know, how does this compare with how much the organization may have raised overall? Do we have any idea of whether Hamas has transferred funds into the United States for any purpose?
LOUIS FREEH: We have been able to show the transfer of substantial cash funds from the United States to areas in the Mideast, where we could show Hamas received and even expenditure of those funds. As to the identification of funds coming into the United States from that particularly organization to its members, some of our surveillance shows that, but it's very--I think it's a very inadequate picture of what perhaps is much greater activity.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: On the House side, the Committee on International Relations focused on activities of Hamas in the Middle East. Robert Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, says he's convinced the Palestine Liberation Organization is making an effort to crack down on Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
ROBERT PELLETREAU, Assistant Secretary of State: Most importantly, they have begun to move against the senior leadership and infrastructure of Hamas on the West Bank and Gaza. On March 3, Chairman Arafat and the Authority outlined the military wings of Islamic movements and all other paramilitary organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the Iseldine El Kusum brigade of Hamas and the Kasam of Palestine Islamic Jihad. Palestinian security forces have been conducting daily sweeps. As of March 11th, Palestinian authorities had detained as many as 700 Hamas and PIJ members.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The PLO's chief Washington representative also testified, and he too tried to reassure committee members.
HASSAN ABDUL RAHMAN, Palestine Liberation Organization: I have no doubt whatsoever, not one shred of doubt, of the commitment of President Arafat and the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to the peace process and to coexistence with Israel and to cooperation with Israel.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But members of the committee remained skeptical that the PLO was effective in dealing with Hamas, a skepticism that's holding up the Clinton administration's request for $500 million to the PLO to improve infrastructure in their territory.
REP. ELIOT ENGEL, (D) New York: Mr. Pelletreau testified this morning that Mr. Arafat's dialogue with Hamas was a mistake, that, in essence, they had duped him, they had--he thought he could engage them in constructive dialogue to bring them into the process. He believed that they were doing that, and then they betrayed everybody. Is that your position too?
HASSAN ABDUL RAHMAN: Our attempts were made in good faith. We were trying, as I said, to isolate the military wing of Hamas from the political wing of Hamas, and let me point out to the success of our strategy that when we went in Gaza in 1994, Hamas according to all polls and expert opinion had between 30 to 40 percent support. In the last two months, Hamas had between 8 to 10 percent support. So we have been able to neutralize 30 percent of support to Hamas. I think that is a great achievement by all standards.
REP. MICHAEL FORBES, (R) New York: Please, sir. I mean, we are appealing to you to give us an understanding as to why if you're continuing to negotiate with the, the Hamas, and I understand now you said you're clamping down, but if you continue these negotiations all through this period and you are detaining but not necessarily following up with prosecutions of known terrorists, how can we have a comfort level that we ought to go forward from here?
HASSAN ABDUL RAHMAN: Our discussion with Hamas, I believe, resulted in persuading some Hamas, the political leader of Hamas, the leadership, some of them, went on television last week to condemn those acts, and support the efforts of the Palestinian National Authority. So we have succeeded, we have failed, but I don't believe what we did was wrong. It was suitable for that time. We have a different situation now, which we are dealing with in a different way.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Upon his arrival in Egypt today, PLO Chief Yasser Arafat talked of the recent terrorist attacks in Israel and asked that not all Palestinians be punished for the acts of a few.
YASSER ARAFAT, Palestine Liberation Organization: The most important thing that we are doing all our best, but we haven't magic sticks, but in the same time we hope that everyone in Israel and in the--and everywhere has to understand that the closure and the collective punishments is not the solution.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Arafat and President Clinton will join world leaders from 27 countries attending tomorrow's anti-terrorism summit.