JERUSALEM (Jan. 31)
Israeli security forces have arrested two Palestinian Americans accused of trying to reorganize the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement and funnel large amounts of foreign money to the group.
A third Palestinian American was also arrested for being a Hamas activist in the West Bank.
The arrests appear to substantiate recent media reports that the Hamas movement is receiving substantial direction and possibly considerable amounts of funding from Moslem fundamentalist leaders based in the United States.
Israeli security agents found $100,000 in cash and plans for military operations in the possession of Mohammad Abdul Hamid Salah, 39, known as Abu Ahmad. He had been renting a room at the YMCA in eastern Jerusalem.
Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, arrested Abu Ahmad last week along with his partner, Joma Hilmi Jarad, 35, known as Abu Anas. The third American, unconnected to the suspected leaders, was arrested in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israel informed the American ambassador of the arrests, and the American consul was given permission to visit the men in jail.
Israeli officials made the arrests public as the country was reeling from an attack Saturday, allegedly carried out by Hamas activists, that left two Israeli soldiers dead in the Gaza Strip.
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According to military sources, Abu Ahmad and Abu Anas both had been living in Chicago and came to Israel in mid-January in an effort to rebuild Hamas after Israel expelled 415 Moslem activists to Lebanon, for terms ranging from six months to two years.
The two men, reportedly acting on instructions from Hamas leaders in the United States and Britain, immediately established contacts with Hamas activists in Ramallah, Jerusalem, Hebron and the Gaza Strip.
They distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable Hamas operations to continue, the Israeli officials charged.
A report prepared by Abu Ahmad on his activities for his American superiors was reportedly seized by the security forces upon his arrest.
The capture of the two men led to the arrest of 40 more Hamas activists, security officials said.
According to security sources, a sum of $300,000 was deposited in Abu Ahmad’s Chicago bank account before he entered Israel.
His mission was reportedly to rebuild the Hamas network throughout the territories, and to re-establish links between the local Hamas activists and the organization abroad. Papers found in his hotel room reportedly described plans for “suicide attacks.”
According to a senior security source, the two Hamas leaders also established contacts with Arab citizens of Israel active in the Israeli-based Islamic Movement.