Hussan Badran is the most senior Hamas prisoner from the West Bank who is scheduled to be released tomorrow in the prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit. Badran may be getting out of prison, but he will not be going home, as Israel insisted that he be deported.
Most of the prisoners who have been deemed symbols of the Hamas movement in the West Bank, including Ibrahim Hamed, Abdallah Barghouti and Abbas Sayed, are not included in the prisoner swap and will remain in prison, despite earlier insistence on Hamas' part that it would not agree to any deal that did not include the three.
Now 45, Badran, is from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. He was identified by the Shin Bet security service at the beginning of the second intifada, which began in September 2000, as the head of the military wing of Hamas in West Bank.
Although intelligence information pointed to his involvement in suicide bombings, including the terrorist attack at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium in 2001, in which 21 people were killed, he was never convicted of murdering Israelis, as most of his counterparts were. During four months of harsh Shin Bet interrogation, he provided only limited information and was ultimately only convicted of less serious offenses such as membership in an illegal organization. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
In 2004, he met with us in prison for research we were doing on a book about the second intifada. In our interview, he spoke relatively candidly about Hamas policy and his involvement in operational decision during the second intifada. He refrained, however, from discussing his role in specific terrorist attacks.
Badran called the second intifada a "gift from God," from Hamas' standpoint, saying that the organization had reached a low point between 1997 and 2000. The entire leadership of the organization was either in Palestinian Authority prisons or Israeli ones, he said, and the military wing of Hamas had essentially disappeared. "But within two weeks of the outbreak of the intifada, after our prisoners were released from Palestinian Authority prisons, we had brought our power back on the street," he said.
Hamas, he said, returned to committing terrorist attacks two weeks after the start of the second intifada in reaction to pressure from the Palestinian street. "Fatah was only carrying out shooting attacks. People wanted to see revenge for our dead, operations inside the territory of Israel," he said, explaining that Hamas leadership decided that terrorist attacks should be carried out wherever possible.
He called the Israeli policy at the time of targeting the Hamas leadership for assassination "stupid" and "ineffective," explaining that Hamas' decision-making was made by a large number of people including leadership abroad. He said some of the Hamas terror attacks, including the attack at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001, were carried out in revenge for the assassination of senior Hamas officials in the West Bank.
"I believe I will get out of jail," he told us in 2004, "if not as a result of a peace agreement, I will get out in a prisoner swap."
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