Defense Update - News Analysis by David Eshel

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hamas Activists, Weapons Siezed in Jordan

On 20 April, Jordanian Prime Minister Maarouf al-Bakhit has told a meeting of MPs that weapons seized from a secret Hamas arms cache in Jordan had been smuggled from Syria, legislators said Thursday. Jordan security services had already determined that five Palestinian legislators have been helping Hamas smuggle weapons into the Hashemite kingdom. Officials said five members of the Palestinian Legislative Council were found to have helped procure and smuggle rocket launchers, automatic weapons and ammunition into Jordan. The sources said the legislators employed their connections to procure the weapons and transport them to the kingdom.

Intelligence officials declared that Hamas spies were caught observing of Jordanian government buildings, power stations and Jordanian oil pipes and fuel depots, preparatory to attacks. Some 15 Hamas activists were taken into custody. Raids of their hideouts turned up a quantity of missiles, explosives and automatic weapons smuggled into the kingdom in the last two weeks. The discovery of the Hamas plot sparked the last-minute cancellation of the Palestinian FM Mahoud a-Zahar’s visit to Amman Wednesday, April 19. Since those Hamas operatives and the contraband hardware were apparently smuggled into the kingdom from Syria, the conspiracy against the Hashemite Kingdom is believed to have been hatched by its Damascus-based leaders, Khaled Meshaal, Mussa Marzuk and Imad al Alami, Hamas operations officer and head of its Intifada Commission.

This was not the first time that Hamas plotted against the Jordanian throne. Its top leadership was expelled from Jordan for subversion in 1999 after fierce confrontations with the Jordanian security services. Amman intelligence officials are confident, that, based on its information, resulting from interrogations, Syrian intelligence must have been in on the Hamas smuggling activities to its neighbour, which was first disclosed by the Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh Tuesday. Nevertheless, as usual under similar circumstances in the past, Hamas government spokesman accused Jordan of fabricating the allegation under US influence to boycott the new Palestinian administration.

In line with the speedy democratic evolution in three nearby countries, Islam as a political force is moving to center stage in Jordan, where the government is a cooperative U.S. ally but where Muslim activists are suspicious both to Washington and Israel. The path to greater influence and perhaps dominant political power may be through municipal elections that are supposed to take place this year and balloting for parliament in 2007. However, rules for each vote have yet to be set, and the conditions will go a long way in revealing how quickly the country's ruler, King Abdullah, is willing to democratize in the face of the Islamic surge. As an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas has strong ties with the Brotherhood in Jordan and its political party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF). The latter have begun to relate to the Hamas achievement as if it were their own. For example, Azam Hunaydi, the leader of the IAF’s 17-member bloc in the Jordanian Parliament of 110, now has the self assurance to go on record with audacious statements to the effect that the Jordanian Islamic movement is "mature enough to take over government responsibilities" while simultaneously criticizing the regime for its "continuous marginalization of the Islamists."

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