Israel Targets Terror Labs Funded by U.S. Islamic Group
The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that Israeli Defense Forces aircraft bombed suspected Hamas terror laboratories located at the Hamas-run Islamic University of Gaza (IUG).
According to the article, IUG professors were using the labs to build explosives for the terrorist organization. A BBC report confirmed that the IUG science building was the target of the Israeli retaliatory strikes.
Thus far unreported is that the IUG science and technology lab was financed and constructed with the assistance of the Dublin, Ohio-based Arab Student Aid International (ASAI). In fact, the IUG website has a page dedicated to ASAI's ongoing contributions to the Hamas institution and specifically mentions the labs financed by the Ohio Islamic group. Additionally, the ASAI website promotes its assistance in creating the IUG science and technology center, which was completed in 2002.
In a previously published article I revealed ASAI's extensive financial ties to the IUG, including direct cash payments to the Hamas school in addition to the facilities construction projects supported by ASAI. The Washington Post also revealed in April 2006 that ASAI had financed the Western education of a number of top Hamas leaders.
The organization's primary benefactor is Prince Turki Ben Abdul Aziz, a former high-ranking Saudi government official and half-brother to King Abdullah. Prince Turki has lived in exile in Egypt since the 1970s following a highly-publicized marriage scandal, his 100+ entourage occupying the top three floors of the Cairo Ramses Hilton. The prince serves as ASAI's chairman of the board, and the labs built by ASAI at the IUG bear his name.
The ties between Hamas and the IUG have been long established. The university was founded by Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, and many Hamas leaders hold faculty and administrative positions at the school.
In an August 2007 policy report for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy entitled "Better Late than Never: Keeping USAID Funds out of Terrorist Hands," Matthew Levitt, former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Treasury Department and author of Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad (Yale Univ. Press), detailed the integral role that IUG plays as part of the Hamas terrorist infrastructure:
Indeed, Israeli and Palestinian scholars alike characterize the IUG as a Hamas institution. Meir Hatina described it as one of the key institutions that "coordinated [Muslim] Brotherhood activities in the Gaza Strip and later constituted a springboard for Hamas." Similarly, in his book Islamic Fundamentalism in the West Bank and Gaza, Ziad Abu Amr depicted the IUG as "the principal Muslim Brotherhood stronghold," referring to the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, which became Hamas in December 1987. "The University's administration, most of the employees who work there, and the majority of students are Brotherhood supporters," he concluded.
Hamas itself has corroborated these ties. In a 2003 interview in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal boasted of the group's participation in building the IUG in 1978. And according to FBI surveillance of a 1993 Hamas meeting in Philadelphia, Muin Kamel Muhammad Shabib, a member of the organization's Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, briefed attendees on "the situation in Palestine" and the status of "Islamic works" tied to Hamas, naming the IUG as one of "our institutions." In fact, even a cursory search of articles on LexisNexis through March 2007 produces 149 articles mentioning the IUG and Hamas together. Yet, only after congressional and media scrutiny exposed the taxpayer-funded awards to the Hamas-linked institution was USAID funding for the university terminated.
Other reports have detailed how the IUG has also been used for weapons storage, launching rockets, and holding hostages. In February 2007, Palestinian security forces captured seven Iranian military trainers and confiscated 1,000 Qassam rockets located at the IUG. Another article reported that 2,000 AK-47s were also confiscated, as well as evidence that captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, abducted by Hamas in June 2006, had previously been held at the university.
A May 2007 International Herald Tribune article described IUG's centrality in the Fatah-Hamas factional fighting in Gaza, with the university used to launch attacks against their rivals and for military training:
Hamas fighters have been inside Islamic University for days, trying to protect it from another Fatah attack like one last year that badly damaged the school, one of the prime means for Hamas to convert Palestinians to its Islamist cause. Hamas guards at the university have been killed by snipers in previous days, and on Friday, Fatah fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades and mortars at the school, setting a building on fire, and exchanged gunshots with Hamas men inside.
Fatah said that Hamas fighters were using the university as a base for attacks on nearby police stations.
After the IUG strikes on Monday, IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich gave an interview to investigative reporter Aaron Klein, characterizing the militant nature of the IUG and the use of its facilities for the manufacture of Hamas explosives. "This is the first university in world that gives out bachelor's degrees in rocket manufacture," she said.
IUG figured prominently in the recent Holy Land Foundation terrorism finance trial, with federal prosecutors entering documents into evidence showing that Holy Land officials used the IUG to funnel funds to Hamas.
With Israel declaring "all-out war" against Hamas, the present conflict will hopefully provide incentive for law enforcement officials to further roll back the extensive Hamas support network in the U.S. Considering the success that prosecutors had in securing convictions on all 108 counts against the Holy Land Foundation defendants, investigating the degree of involvement of Arab Student Aid International in the financing and construction of the IUG Hamas terror labs might be a good place to start.