Sunday, April 03, 2005

Iran Offers Cash For Bombs To Break Palestinian Truce

Marie ColvinThe Times Online:
Palestinian fighters have revealed that Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese group backed by Iran, is offering to pay for attacks aimed at shattering the fragile truce with Israel. READ MORE

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, has made it clear that one suicide bomber in Tel Aviv could prompt him to abandon negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and may even delay Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, which is planned for July.

In the first concrete evidence of Iranian interference in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the men, all on Israel’s most wanted list, said they had received payments of up to $9,000 (about £4,800) sent by Hezbollah to the West Bank for attacks against Israel during the past four years.

They said that most of the money from Hezbollah had been sent to Islamic Jihad, the militant fundamentalist group that has sent suicide bombers into Israeli cities. The men, members of the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades — the military wing of Fatah, the secular group founded by Yasser Arafat — knew of the payments because they liaised with Islamic Jihad in their area, near the West Bank city of Nablus.

“They would send Islamic Jihad money in amounts of something like $4,000,” said Ala’a Sanakreh, the 27-year-old leader of the group. It’s easy — they just use Western Union.” ...

Sanakreh said he had taken the money from Hezbollah when Arafat had stopped paying Fatah’s fighters. “We disagreed with the Islamic Jihad people because Hezbollah would send money only for attacking Israel. They did not take care of the shaheed (martyr) families. So we then stopped taking the money.”

According to Sanakreh, those who had since been offered money by Hezbollah had turned it down. Their leaders had made it clear that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, should be given a chance to negotiate with the Israelis.

But Sanakreh said he had received a call from a Hezbollah representative in Beirut.