Did Palestinian official collude with Israel in Gaza killing?

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 25, 2011 

JERUSALEM — A senior Palestinian official held discussions with Israel about possibly assassinating a Palestinian national in Gaza, according to the latest secret Palestinian Authority documents that the Al Jazeera satellite TV network released Tuesday.

Handwritten notes in Arabic translated by the network record an alleged conversation between Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef in which Mofaz urges Yousef to kill a figure in Gaza. Yousef balks, complaining that Israel hadn't provided enough incentives.

The document has Mofaz pressing Yousef to explain why there hadn't been an effort to assassinate Hassan al Madhoun, whom he identifies as a well-known Palestinian terrorist.

"We know his address. ... Why don't you kill him?" Mofaz asked in a meeting in Tel Aviv on Oct. 1, 2005, according to the documents.

Mofaz then said that Madhoun was planning to attack one of the crossing points from Gaza into Israel. "He is not Hamas and you can kill him," Mofaz said, referring to the political movement that won control over Gaza in 2007 elections.

Yousef replied to Mofaz that his capabilities were limited and that Israel had offered the Palestinian few incentives for action.

A month later, Madhoun was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his car.

It was unclear whether Yousef or the Palestinian Authority — under control of the Fatah party, a rival of Hamas — played any role in the assassination.

Another embarrassing revelation was a plea by the Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah, West Bank, to U.S. envoy George Mitchell in September 2009 to put more effort into sealing the smuggling tunnels that linked Gaza to Egypt.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat asked Mitchell to work with Israeli and Egyptian forces to close off the Gaza Strip, which relied on the tunnels to import a wide variety of goods, from foodstuffs to weapons.

Though the Palestinian Authority publically criticized Israel for the blockade that left Gaza cut off and reliant on the tunnels for goods, in private conversations it appears to support the siege.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Erekat called Al Jazeera's disclosures "unfair distortion and lies."

In a sharply worded statement, Erekat accused Al Jazeera of participating in a campaign to discredit and overthrow the Palestinian Authority.

Labeling the leaks "despicable incitement," Erekat accused the channel of "implementing a plan" on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman aimed at sabotaging Palestinian diplomacy.

Al Jazeera didn't respond to Erekat's allegations, but it noted in its report that all the documents had been published on its public website.

Abbas tried to play down the new reports, calling them little more than a "boring soap opera."

Returning to his Ramallah headquarters from Jordan, Abbas was greeted by hundreds of supporters, who were demonstrating against Al Jazeera and the authorities in Qatar, where the station is based.

Some burned pictures of the Qatari emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, while others torched Israeli flags with the Al Jazeera logo printed on them.

(Frenkel is a McClatchy special correspondent.) ON THE WEB

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McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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