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MER - Washington - 5 January:
   MER's Middle East Man of the Year has yet to be announced, and it is not Sheik Ahmed Yasin, the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas.

   But Sheik Yasin's release from Israeli prison and his enthusiastic reception from the Hashemite Throne, to Yasser Arafat, to the streets of teaming Gaza was a unique event last year making Yasin a strong candidate.

   And many may have forgotten a few other things about Hamas. Sheik Yassin's release by the Israelis was proceeded earlier in the year by the release from a New York prison of the political head of Hamas, Musa Abu Marzook.  At the last minute the Israeli's backed off from extraditing Abu Marzook to Israel.  Simply put, the Israelis fear Hamas, far more than they do Arafat.

   And it should also be remembered that it was just two years ago this month that the Israelis used their technological wizardry (a cell-phone bomb) to assassinate Yehya Ayyash, "The Engineer", in Gaza.  They succeeded, but in the process then Prime Minister Shimon Peres set off a chain of events that resulted in suicide bus bombings, the latest war in southern Lebanon, the Qana U.N.-base massacre, and then his own electoral defeat.

   The Oslo agreement was "born dead", and the war with Israel will continue Sheikh Yasin outlines in this interview.  He is more subtle in discussing the Hamas/Arafat divide; even though Palestinian civil war remains a very real possibility and is among the central Israeli goals.

   The Hamas/Arafat conflict is in fact at the center of the Israeli/Arafat connection and among the main reasons it began in the first place.  Clearly Arafat has many more guns and much more money; and he is receiving ever-growing help from many sources including the CIA, the Mossad, as well as Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence, in order to "control" Hamas.

   But Hamas appears to have many resources of its own, most importantly a dedicated and growing following among large and growing numbers of Palestinians.  Much is underground of course; and that's also among Hamas's greatest assets.

  This limited but nevertheless interesting interview with Sheik Yasin was conducted among supporters in Gaza and published by Palestine Times, a publication known for close Hamas connections.

S H E I K H    A H M E D   Y A S I N 
Interviewed by Abdel Ghani Shami

Q. What is your comment on the current developments in the Palestinian arena?

A. What is going on in the Palestinian arena is the inevitable result of the Oslo Accords. These Accords were mysterious and gave the Israelis an opportunity to explain their provisions in a way that serves the
interests of the Israelis and in accordance with their power. Therefore, the settlements continued and the Israeli government turned its back to the world and did not honour the agreements it signed publicly. In
addition, Israel continued the closures, which made the Palestinian People prisoners in a mass prison.

Because the Palestinian Authority vowed in the Oslo Accords to fight "terrorism", which means fighting anyone resisting the Israeli Occupation, the PLO turned from a basic enemy to Israel to an advocate
in Israel's favour, although the Israeli government has not fulfilled the provisions of the Oslo Accords. Therefore, the PLO lost all their cards in confronting the Israelis who are known for not keeping their
promises and pledges. The fact is that the PA punishes the Palestinian People and Hamas collectively, a thing which we strongly reject. Those who are arrested did not commit any crime. They are held only for their political affiliations.

Q. If the Israeli-PLO negotiations failed, what would be your alternative?

A. The Oslo Accords were born dead. Therefore, we still believe that the resistance of the occupation through the use of Jihad is the method that the Palestinian People should adopt. The present negotiations are a "waste" of time and deceive the whole world as they project Israel as a country that seeks peace even though it is piling up nuclear and chemical weapons to launch new wars against the Arab and Islamic Nation.

Q. Do you support the freezing of the armed operations against Israel?

A. I said that the resistance should continue as long as there is an occupation.  But the Mujahideen can choose the appropriate time for their operations.  This means that the freezing of the military activities against the Israeli Occupation should not be mentioned under the circumstances of our people in the Occupied Territories and in the Diaspora.

Q. How can the national unity be reinforced? And how do you assess your participation in the National Dialogue?

A. We are one people with one language and the majority of us embrace one religion. We all stand in one trench against one enemy that does not differentiate between a Palestinian and another. All Palestinians are targeted by the Israeli enemy. We also have one goal, which is to liberate the Palestinian territories and to repatriate the Palestinian People in Diaspora to their homeland. We should make these facts the
basis for the unification of our ranks against the Israeli conspiracies that aim to sow the seeds of dispute among us.

As for our participation in the National Dialogue, it is continuous. But we hope that this dialogue is not ceremonial but real in order to protect the freedom of the Palestinian people and their right to their

Q. What is the position of Hamas concerning the current circumstances?

A. Hamas has a firm stand. It insists on continuing its Jihad against the occupation. It is willing to sacrifice until the occupation is removed and the Palestinian State is established on the whole Palestinian soil with Jerusalem as its capital. Hamas rejects the accords "Oslo" produced, which the international observers believe to be dead.


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