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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Israeli security forces confiscated $8.3 million in RamAllah bank raid

U.S. State Department "would rather that Israel cooperate with the PA legal authorities"
Arutz Sheva: In a 14-hour raid on four banks in Ramallah yesterday, Israeli security forces confiscated some 37 million shekels ($8.3 million) used to fund terrorism. Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz announced that the money, taken from close to 400 different accounts, would be returned to the Palestinian Authority for such uses as health services, school transportation, food supply and infrastructure improvements at crossings and checkpoints.

Large IDF, Shabak (General Security Service) and police forces swooped down on and around the banks in mid-morning yesterday. Local Arabs began attacking them with rocks; some 20 of the assailants were injured - including between one and three in serious condition - when the Israelis responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

The money confiscated yesterday is only a small fraction of that used annually by the terrorist organizations. Hamas, which is chiefly funded by Iranian sources, is estimated to receive some $70-90 million each year. The money is used for its educational system, in which children learn the ideals of jihad and potential terrorists are identified; funding the military and terrorist arms; and funding for indirect terrorist infrastructures.

Among those whose bank accounts were confiscated were Naaf U-Sharah, a Tanzim leader in Shechem, who organized at least three terror attacks that killed a total of 32 Israelis; Yamen Frej, head of the Popular Front in Shechem, who was involved in a suicide attack in Tel Aviv two months ago in which four Israelis were murdered, and many others.

The Shabak has learned that set rates exist for organizing various types of attacks. For instance, those who set up the bus attack in Meiron in August 2002 received $10,000 each, while those involved in the double suicide attack in Jerusalem received three times that amount.

The United States' response to yesterday's raid? "The action is liable to endanger the Palestinian banking system. We would rather that Israel cooperate with the PA legal authorities with the goal of stopping the funding for terror organizations." So said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher last night.
DEBKAfile’s Washington sources reveal the US was under heavy pressure to have Israel’s “armed robbers” pulled out of the banks - not only from Fayed, but from international banking heavyweight Palestinian-born Abdul Majid Shuman, head of the Arab Bank of Amman, one of the biggest in the Middle East, whose two Ramallah branches were stormed Wednesday together with the Cairo Amman Bank.

Shuman called every head of government and international bank he could find, including the World Bank and Jordan’s King Abdullah II who is on a visit in Malaysia, to insist that they intercede with the Bush administration to stop the Israeli operation. He warned the king that the Jordan-based institution’s business reputation would suffer if Israeli troops could march in at will and examine confidential accounts.

Nonetheless, for 13 hours, no one interrupted Israeli police computer experts as they logged onto banking networks and examined accounts, or the officers stuffing up to $8 million into large holdalls in amounts corresponding to the targeted accounts.