Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In the wake of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to Washington, press attention continues to focus almost entirely on the latest chapter in a story that began with Hamas’ creation nearly 19 years ago: the terrorist organization’s conflict with Israel. But the mainstream media thus far has largely overlooked another story, one which doesn’t fit the ordinary paradigm of Arab vs. Jew: the fact that Hamas’ relations with Jordan are worsening, and the same may be about to occur with Egypt.

Two recent events deserve considerably more attention then they have been receiving thus far: Jordan’s announcement last month that it had uncovered a Syrian-backed Hamas plot to attack the kingdom; and Egypt’s announcement on Tuesday that the terrorists who carried out the April 24 bombings that killed 24 people in Dahab, a Sinai resort town trained for the operation in Gaza.

Hamas’ most serious problem is with Jordan, where security forces last month arrested 20 of its members. Amman accuses Hamas of smuggling detonators, rocket launchers and explosives into the country from Syria, and of attempting to recruit Jordanians to send to Iran and Syria for “military training.” Authorities said they believe that Hamas was planning attacks against unspecified targets in Jordan. “The foiled plots by Hamas elements against officials and installations in Jordan were in the final stages of execution,” Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Joudeh said. “Interrogations of suspects proved that they received instructions from a Hamas leader…who is now in Syria.”

Security officials in Jordan have said they have a tape-recorded conversation between Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based chief of Hamas’ ruling council, and a member of the terror cell targeting Jordan. When Jordanian television earlier this month broadcast confessions by three of the detained Hamas members, it included video of Katyusha rockets — some with Persian inscriptions on them. Iran, Syria and Hamas all deny they had any connection to an anti-Jordanian plot, and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki travelled to Amman last week in an attempt to smooth over relations between the two countries.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry said Tuesday that the three suicide bombers who attacked Dahab last month had been sent by an Egyptian jihadist to Gaza for training in bomb-making techniques, and that police had detained a number of Egyptians who trained in Gaza, one of whom admitted receiving a congratulatory message from “Palestinian elements” after the bombings were carried out.

Egypt has yet to say officially which Palestinian organization in Gaza was to blame for the Dahab attacks, but officials speaking on background have accused Hamas and a Hamas-linked group called the Popular Resistance Committees of providing shelter for one of the planners. Egypt has asked the Palestinian Authority to arrest this person.

In sum, Hamas’s relations with neighboring Arab governments are deteriorating.

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