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Gaza govt: WikiLeaks exposé confirms our claims

Nov. 30, 2010 3:20 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 1, 2010 8:35 P.M.)
By Jared Malsin

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip said Tuesday that they were already aware of the explosive information on Palestinian affairs exposed this week by the whistleblower group WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks on Sunday released a trove of US diplomatic cables, one of which included the revelation of plans for extensive US espionage on Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials.

Among the documents was a claim by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israel consulted Egypt and the PA in the lead-up to the winter war. Barak is quoted in the cable saying both Egyptian and PA officials rejected offers to assume control of Gaza after a defeat of Hamas.

Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ihab Al-Ghusain told Ma'an that "All the information that came from WikiLeaks [is] not new for us. We said that before, actually, even about the war on Gaza and the information we got that the Palestinian Authority and Egypt knew before about the war."

"It's not new, it's just confirming what we said in the past, actually. So we're not surprised with it," he said at his Gaza office.

Asked about the revelation of America's plans to gather meticulous intelligence on Hamas and PA officials and institutions, Ghussain said, "Sure, we know that America is a part of what is going on."

He said Israel and the US were "both cooperating against the resistance. Sadly we say that always the US is going on the side of Israel and is helping Israel without being objective. The US should have a more balanced situation."

He added: "Everybody knows that Hamas came through elections and through democracy, and always the US was singing about democracy. What about what happened in Palestine with the election?"

In Ramallah, President Mahmoud Abbas denied Monday that Israel approached him prior to the 3-week assault, which left some 1,400 Palestinians dead.

Saeb Erekat, the chief PLO negotiator, also disputed Barak's account. "We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war," Erekat told The Associated Press. But "there were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the war."

WikiLeaks obtained an archive of more than a quarter-million secret US diplomatic cables, and released some of them to news organizations for publication Sunday.

Barak's statement claiming PA and Egyptian foreknowledge was perhaps the most consequential revealed in the documents as far as the Israeli-Palestinian question is concerned.

The document is a report on a conversation between US Sen. Bob Casey, Rep. Gary Ackerman, and Barak in June 2009.

In the report, US officials quoted Barak as saying the "GOI [Government Of Israel] had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.

"Not surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers from both," the document states.

A separate cable lays out a "national human intelligence collection directive" asking US personnel to obtain "Details of travel plans such as routes and vehicles used by Palestinian Authority leaders and HAMAS members."

The cable demands "[b]iographical, financial and biometric information on key PA and HAMAS leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank and outside."
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