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"The suicide bombings are a key element in the arena of the struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians," says a report by a Palestinian security service on the suicide bombings, "and an analysis of the circumstances of the timing and execution of the vast majority of the bombings, particularly the major ones conducted by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, makes clear the timing was much more a purely political matter than a practical military one."

The authors of the report assume that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad are well-connected inside the Palestinian Authority with agents and elements who provide information based on knowledge of political developments, including inside information about negotiations with Israel, the U.S. and the international community, thus enabling the Hamas and Islamic Jihad to respond accordingly.

And the main objective of the two Islamic organizations is "the destruction of the PA and the creation of a governmental alternative that has the goal of negotiating under fire according to Hamas conditions, along the lines of the Hezbollah model."

A threat to Hamas

The document reveals that the suicide bomb attack at the Dolphinarium, in June 2001, where 21 Israeli teenagers were killed, was meant to torpedo American efforts to renew security coordination between Israel and the PA, coordination that was viewed as a direct threat to the Hamas.

"The attack took place after two specific security meetings in Ramallah and Gaza between Israeli and Palestinian security officials with the participation of American officials who were trying to renew security coordination between the sides," says the document.

Similarly the document refers to the Hamas attack on Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant in August 2001, "which came in the midst of great efforts to end the shooting incidents in the territories. The political atmosphere included an initiative for sending international observers to Bethlehem and Rafah and implementing the Mitchell report and a day before the attack there was a meeting between Yasser Arafat and the American consul in Jerusalem, which was a positive meeting."

According to the report's authors, Palestinian security forces, acting on Israeli information, had already managed to arrest the engineer for the Sbarro attack, Abdullah Albarghouti, but the arrest came too late to prevent the bombing.

Torpedoing Zinni's mission

The document says the Hamas and Islamic Jihad made a special effort to torpedo the mission of U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was sent at the end of 2001 to the region to renew the security coordination between the sides.

The December attack on the Number 16 bus in Haifa killing 15 was aimed at disrupting the Zinni mission, says the report. Zinni was energetically involved in joint meetings when he heard about the bombing, which ended the chances of reaching a joint security agreement at the time.

The document explains that the political interests of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad when giving orders for bombings are broader than the mere bombing. The attack on the Park Hotel in March 2002, the most lethal of all the suicide bombings, was "timed at the same time as the Arab League meeting in Beirut and after two more rounds of meetings with Zinni," says the report. The attack came during the Beirut conference and prompted Operation Defensive Shield and the reoccupation of the West Bank's cities.

According to the document, the attack on the Matza Restaurant in Haifa four days later was "to make sure the PA lost complete control over regional security and accelerate the process of the PA being completely and finally destroyed."

Similarly, the document explains that the attack on the Sheffield snooker club in Rishon Letzion two months later was timed to coincide with a visit to Washington by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and initial reports about the arrival of CIA Director George Tenet in the region, where he was to try to once again achieve a joint security agreement between the sides.

But the attack, says the report, "was aimed by the Hamas at Palestinian public opinion, which was dealing with the issue of the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and criticism of the PA."

A month later, the Islamic Jihad conducted the attack at the Megiddo Junction, as Tenet visited the country.

The document's authors claim that the attacks were also timed to respond to internal Palestinian events.

The attack on Bus 32 in Jerusalem in June 2002, killing 19 Israelis, was meant to undermine the legitimacy of the new Palestinian interior minister, Abdul Razak Yahya, who had been imposed on Arafat a few weeks earlier. According to the report, the Hamas was aware of renewed initial contacts between American officials and Palestinian Authority officials about the upcoming speech by President George W. Bush in which he would spell out his two-state vision - and issue the demand for Arafat to be replaced.

According to the document, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad were also aware of the start of efforts to formulate the road map at the time and knew what the PA officials knew about it even before it was finalized at the end of 2002.

The attack at the Karkur Junction in October 2002 was meant to torpedo the contacts for the road map and the presentation of the plan, says the report. And that modus operandi continued the following year, for example in attack on Bus 37 in Haifa just as Mahmoud Abbas was imposed as a Palestinian prime minister on Arafat and Egypt announced it planned to achieve a hudna, or cease-fire.