"07/07/2008 The Israeli occupation army will soon be stepping up its campaign against Hamas' civilian infrastructure in the occupied West Bank, shutting down a large number of Hamas-affiliated charities, confiscating their property, and searching computers and documents that detail their activity.
The occupation army has been carrying out similar raids in Al-Khalil, Qalqilyah and Ramallah areas since the beginning of the year, but the campaign will now be expanded to additional parts of the West Bank, in the wake of approval from Israel's legal authorities.
After receiving permission to seize property that provides Hamas-affiliated associations with income, even if they are not directly linked to the group, the Israeli has shut down a mall in Al-Khalil, confiscated buses and prohibited the opening of a new school due to ties with Hamas-linked Islamic associations. Offices and storehouses have also been shut down.
The Israeli army argues that closing Hamas-affiliated institutions cuts off a crucial source of funding earmarked for resistance activities. The move is also aimed at making it difficult for Hamas to increase its influence in the West Bank, in a bid to stem Hamas' rising popularity and keep it from wresting control from the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin have approved the plan to target Hamas' civilian infrastructure.
Over the last few years, Hamas has built an "organizational system that, if necessary, could serve as the basis for a state," a senior Israeli army official told Israeli daily Haaretz. "It's simply a 'state of associations.' They accumulate a lot of popular support and rely on an enormous infusion of funds from abroad, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, from bodies in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Muslim communities in Europe, the United States and South America."
"They have knowledge, funds and skilled people, much more so than Fatah," a senior Israeli occupation army officer said. "They won the elections in many towns and local authorities, and they are gradually gaining control of more education, health, welfare and religious institutions."
But although the occupation army is targeting Hamas-affiliated institutions, the Israeli officer notes that "we have not yet declared war on Hamas." He said such a move would need to be undertaken by the state as a whole, rather than "local work" carried out by the army and Shin Bet.
Hamas-affiliated institutions that were targeted so far include schools, health centers, charities, and even soup kitchens and orphanages. Dozens of associations were shut down and the food confiscated.
Several dozen indictments have been issued thus far, and some operatives have been convicted and sentenced to jail terms. "