A university closely affiliated with Hamas has announced construction of a massive new campus on the grounds of Neve Dekalim, the former Jewish capital of the Gaza Strip, in part utilizing evacuated Jewish buildings.
Gaza’s Al Aqsa University already began construction at the new site in the Gush Katif capital. The campus is set to encompass 45 acres of facilities, including classrooms, chemistry labs, faculty offices and a mosque. Several Jewish buildings still standing in Neve Dekalim’s town center will be used by the university for administrative offices, according to the Palestinian media.
Al Aqsa University, currently headquartered in Gaza City, is influenced by Hamas ideology and espouses Islamic fundamentalist attitudes, Israel says. Palestinian security officials said Al Aqsa’s student council is dominated by Hamas members and employs faculty members close to the terror group. Many Hamas leaders are graduates of the university and take part in its operations, the officials said.
Following Hamas’s victory by a large margin in the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections, experts watching the terror group closely say it has been aligning itself more than ever with the Muslim Brotherhood, its hard-line Islamic counterpart in Egypt. They point to worrying signs that Hamas might be eyeing an eventual Egyptian takeover.
Hamas was founded in 1987 as a military offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to create an Islamic theocracy throughout the Middle East, and ultimately around the world. Palestinian and Israeli security officials said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is concerned that the ascension of Hamas to power will embolden the Muslim Brotherhood to seek a similar power grab in Egypt. Analysts say Mubarak considers the Brotherhood a major challenge to his government.
Experts say they are concerned by the current level of cooperation between the two organizations. According to Palestinian security sources close to Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mahdi Akif has been serving as a replacement Hamas spiritual leader following Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Yassin in March 2004.
Brotherhood founders are also featured prominently on Hamas’s published material, and reportedly have coordinated violence with Hamas at the Gaza-Sinai border.
An Israeli security official said Egypt is especially concerned by the close proximity of the Gaza Strip, which borders the Sinai Desert.
“There is major worry now in Mubarak’s regime of losing control in the Sinai. Hamas is already in control of Gaza. There have been indications Hamas has designs for more control of the Sinai along with the Muslim Brotherhood. There is particular concern that if they gain any control, al-Qaeda cells thought to be in the area will be allowed to flourish and can attack both Egypt and Israel.”
In what may be the first attempt by Hamas to negotiate indirectly with the Jewish state since its election victory, the terror group has asked Egypt to petition Israel and European countries to allow its overall leader, Khaled Meshaal, to enter Gaza.
A top Hamas official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hamas is presenting Meshaal – who is responsible for directing dozens of suicide bombings and shooting attacks – as a “moderating influence” capable of restraining “hard-line elements” within Hamas. The group needs Israel’s permission for Meshaal to enter, since the Jewish state has the authority to close down the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
Meshaal currently operates from Syria, where he runs the Hamas organization and grants interviews to the media. He was named the most senior figure in the terror group after the assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin, as well as the elimination of Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz Rantisi. Israel attempted to assassinate Meshaal in 1997.
In an exclusive interview with WorldNetDaily, Druze Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt charged that the burning this past weekend of Danish government offices in Damascus and Beirut, allegedly to protest newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, were directed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in part using undercover soldiers acting as rioters.
“Syria is stirring trouble in the region,” said Jumblatt, Druze leader and head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party. “Regarding the burnings and protests in Damascus, it is very bizarre that a so-called secular totalitarian regime that controls everything was not able to control these demonstrations.
“Those involved in the Danish consulate burning in Beirut, including some arrested, were found to be people working for Syria, including Syrian soldiers disguised as civilians. They were sent from remote areas in the south, a kind of orchestration. Even though clerics of al-Jamal Islaimya [an extremist Lebanese splinter faction] denounced violent protest, they couldn’t control the Syrian saboteurs.”
Jumblatt contended Assad used the cartoon protests to stir regional violence in reaction to the continuing probe into the assassination last February of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, for which Damascus has been widely blamed. The United States and some European countries are calling for United Nations sanctions against Syria.
“Remember Assad’s warnings to the international community that if he is put under pressure, chaos will prevail in the region,” said Jumblatt.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He is a co-host of ABC Radio’s nationally syndicated John Batchelor Show and can be heard regularly on American radio.