|The leader-in-exile of the Hamas terror organization, Khaled Mashal, currently based in Syria, may try to enter Gaza via the Rafiah crossing from Egypt, following the group's sweeping victory in last Wednesday's PA electon.
Israeli sources in Jerusalem say that Mashal, who was the target of a Mossad assassination attempt in 1997, intends to reach Judea and Samaria, and possibly participate in or lead a new Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority.
Security sources said that an attempt by Mashal to cross into Gaza would be met by an Israeli effort to shut the Rafiah crossing between Egypt and Gaza. It is unclear, however, how Israel would effect such a closure, as the Rafiah crossing is no longer under Israeli control. Leading Hamas terrorists recently boasted to the Arab media about how easy it was to enter and exit the Gaza district.
Israel still has official control over the entry and exit of Arabs from Judea and Samaria.
After the botched assassination attempt, which took place in Jordan, Israel agreed to release Hamas leader and founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin from jail, in exchange for Mossad agents who were apprehended by the Jordanians. The Jordanians subsequently expelled Mashal to Syria.
Following the assassination of Yassin by Israeli forces in March 2004 and the elimination of Abdel-Aziz Rantisi a month later, Mashal is considered to be the most important figure in the Hamas.
The PA director of the office for interior affairs, Samir Halila, told an Arab radio station that the Palestinian Authority is currently discussing Mashal's return entry into Gaza with a number of countries and with the European Union's representative in the Middle East.
Halila said a request to allow Mashal's entry into Gaza has already been submitted to the Israeli authorities. Israeli sources say there is virtually no chance that such a request would be approved. The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot suggested, however, that Israeli officials would consider approving a request to return Mashal to the PA in return for an agreement to sustain a cease-fire for a period of ten years or more.
Mashal, 49, said on Sunday from Damascus that he wants the PA to form a standing army composed of terrorists from the Fatah and the Hamas's military wing, Iz A-Din Al-Kassam.
Regarding the possibility that the Hamas might recognize Israel's right to exist, Mashal said, "We will not recognize Israeli occupation, but we are realistic and we know things are done gradually."
Syrian President Bashar Assad praised Mashal on Sunday for the Hamas electoral victory. The two leaders called on the international community to respect the results of the PA election, as it reflects the will of the people.