Assassination in Damascus |

Death of Hamas Official Won't Stop Flow of Arms From Iran, Syria to Gaza

Senior Haaretz analysts Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel say that the Syria killing shows Syria's regime is too busy fighting for its existence to worry about the security of Hamas operatives.

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We don't know much about the assassination of Kamel Ranaja in Damascus Wednesday. But from the little information that was obtainable, mostly from Hamas officials, it was orchestrated by professionals.

Someone had a group of armed men appear at Ranaja's Damascus home and gun him down. One can only imagine how the assailants took advantage of the turmoil gripping Syria, the clashes between Assad supporters and opposition members and demonstrations, to make it to Ranaja's doorstep and disappear without leaving a trace.

The Syrian regime is too busy fighting for its very existence to worry about the security of this or that Hamas operative. The culprits even took documents from the house located in Qudsia, a suburb outside of Damascus, and set it ablaze in order to cover their tracks.

Senior Hamas officials blamed Israel for the deed as if it was a reflex. One of them told the French news agency AFP that the victim was a former deputy of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a top Hamas official who was assassinated in Dubai over two years ago, and who recently took assumed his position. Al-Mabhouh was considered one of the central figures in Hamas's effort to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.

On January 20, 2010, Al-Mabhouh's body was found in a hotel room of a fancy Dubai hotel with the local police pointing its finger at the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency. Israel never confirmed its involvement in the assassination and even today it seems that it doesn't intended to do so.

Another report has it that Ranaja was in charge for the weapon smuggling into the Gaza Strip from Iran and Syria. At any rate, as Ehud Barak explained (not being able to help himself), he was no saint according to what was published about him. Barak added that others were also after him.

People like "Nizar Abu Mujhad," as he was often called, accumulate many enemies, and the hostility between the Syrian regime is at a very high level. With that in mind, one must remember that Damascus has had quite a bit of "curious incidents" in recent years – all of which were attributed to the Mossad, none of them with a shred of evidence. Such was the case with the assassination of Imad Mughniyah in February 2008 and in the assassination of Iz a Din al-Sheikh Khalil in September 2004.

The problem is that the assassination of Ranaja will not be enough to solve the real problem - the influx of arms from Syria and Iran into Gaza. The smuggling didn't stop after al-Mabhouh met his demise, neither will it now. As long as the Sinai Peninsula remains a paradise for terrorists and weapons traffickers this problem will continue to wash up on Israel's shores. The anarchy in Egypt and the power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Military Council will definitely not help.

Follow Avi Issacharoff on Twitter

Masked Palestinian militants from Islamic Jihad placing homemade rockets before later firing them into Israel on the outskirts of Gaza City. Credit: AP
Kamel Ranaja.



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