Hamas vows to step up West Bank operations

May 19, 2004 at 12:43 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 19 (UPI) -- Hamas has vowed to step up operations in the West Bank after Israel's expected withdrawal from Gaza, the militant group said Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "must understand that Hamas will extend the fight to other parts of the Palestinian territories," Osama Hamdan, Hamas' top representative in Beirut, told United Press International.

Hamdan said it would make no difference to Hamas if Israel expels Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat to Gaza from his headquarters in Ramallah, on the West Bank. Hamas would welcome Arafat, Hamdan said.

Hamas continues to collect millions of dollars annually despite attempts by Israel and the Bush administration to close its bank accounts and dry up its money trails.

Hamas consistently pays financial compensation to families of Palestinians killed and maimed in the intifada, or uprising. However, Hamdan claims that his organization no longer collects funds destined for the families of victims. Instead, it arranges to have donors transfer monies directly to the recipients, a move meant to avoid having accounts frozen as a result of U.S. pressure.

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