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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Face-to-face with Hamas
Hamas gunman
Hamas says the intifada is not over
Shortly before Fatah and Hamas decided to suspend attacks on Israel, Hilary Andersson went to Gaza to meets some of the gunmen at the centre of the intifada.

They took us to a secret location and we were not allowed to film anything that would show where we were.

These are Yasser Arafat's gunmen - men the Israelis are hunting. Each individual is wanted.

Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat: Is he in control or not?
During the months of the uprising, they have been firing on Israeli targets every day.

They would not give any details of how they operate.

They are at the forefront of the Palestinian intifada and for them politics is one thing - their fight another.

"We are under continuous aggression from the Israelis - and wherever we find a chance to hit an Israeli target we will not hesitate to attack," said one.

Public support

These men come under the direct control of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. But they decide when and where to carry out attacks on their own.

And there are at least six other groups who are doing the same without any central control.


I don't think Arafat is going to turn against the people

Ziad Abu Amr, Zir Biet University
Hamas militants operate independently - in one attack they fired mortars into Israel. They say they do not take any orders from Yasser Arafat. And the people support them.

Every day Hamas gives money to the poor, at centres around Gaza. It is deeply involved in the people's struggle to survive these difficult times.

Amir El A'amudi has 13 children - Hamas gives him food to survive on. The peace process years brought him nothing but hardship - and for months now he has had no income at all.

Like many in Gaza he wants the fight with Israel to go on. Few people in Gaza think returning to peace talks is an option.

Yasser Arafat is in charge here - or he is in theory. But practically, it would hard for him to call it off the fighting - and politically too it could be suicide without a major Israeli concession.

"It's very important for Arafat to present Palestinian people with some political achievement which would constitute a trade-off against violence," said Ziad Abu Amr of Zir Biet University.

"I don't think Arafat is going to turn against the people or to engage in internal problems when everybody is under Israeli external threat."

The extremists' slogans call for force - and Yasser Arafat backs their call. He has little choice. Seven years of peace talks have come to this - and now his political survival is at stake.

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The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"Each individual is wanted"

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03 Jun 01 | Middle East
02 Jun 01 | Middle East
25 May 01 | Middle East
28 Mar 01 | Middle East
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