(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)
Osama Zaki Muhammad Bashiti, born in 1975, a Khan Yunis merchant and money changer, was arrested at the Rafiah crossing on 14 July 2005 upon his return to the Gaza Strip from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He confessed that in the five months prior to his arrest, from the beginning of the calm, he had served as a conduit for transferring funds from Hamas abroad to Muhammad Sanouar after the latter had come to his office and requested his assistance.
Bashiti began to transfer funds that arrived at his office from the UAE to Sanouar via Sanouar’s nephew.
Bashiti said that his brother-in-law, Muhammad Shaar lived in Dubai and was responsible, on behalf of Bashiti and his family, for transferring the funds from the UAE to Bashiti’s office. Bashiti gave Shaar’s number to Sanouar, who then gave it to Hamas members abroad; the latter then transferred the funds to Shaar under cover of currency transfers.
Shaar sent the funds he received to various Gaza Strip merchants who visited the UAE and they, in turn, transferred the funds to the Bashiti family money-changing office. After the funds had arrived, Bashiti would transfer them to Sanouar’s nephew, Ibrahim Sanouar; the latter would pass them on to his uncle Muhammad.
The funds were transferred in several transactions because merchants may not bring large amounts of money into the Gaza Strip. Bashiti said that the largest such amount that he transferred for Muhammad Sanouar was approximately $200,000. In June 2005, after Shaar was expelled from Dubai, Bashiti left to arrange for Shaar’s replacement but in the end, decided to return to the Gaza Strip after Muhammad Sanouar’s operatives did not meet him in Dubai. As noted above, Bashiti was arrested upon his return to the Gaza Strip.
Muhammad Sanouar is a senior official with Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip and the Hamas military commander in Khan Yunis. He was directly involved in directing hundreds of bomb, mortar, shooting and infiltration attacks, including the 7 March 2002 attack on the Gush Katif community of Atzmona in which five Israeli students were murdered. Sanouar and Muhammad Dief supervised the March 1996 suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Ashkelon, in which 44 Israeli civilians were murdered and approximately 100 were wounded.
Hamas’s Gaza Strip spokesman, Sami Abu Zahari, declared last week that Sanouar was among those Hamas leaders who “were prepared to continue confronting the occupation throughout the Palestinian lands, and resistance is the only option.”
Recent statements by Hamas leaders, including Muhammad Die, regarding the continued resistance jibe with Hamas’ activities during the calm to maintain its operational abilities and re-establish its leading position in the Gaza Strip.
Even during the calm, Hamas has perpetrated terrorist attacks against Israel. Hamas claimed responsibility for 124 such attacks since the beginning of the calm, including 23 rocket and 87 mortar attacks. Hamas has also been involved behind the scenes (lest it be accused of violating the agreements regarding the calm) in organizing various high-profile terrorist attacks such as the June 2005 attempt to attack Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.
The foregoing attests to Hamas’ continued involvement in terrorism despite its aspiration become a political party. The perpetration of many of Hamas’ recent terrorist attacks would not have been possible without its financial conduits, which enable the purchase of war materiel and the funding of training exercises.