Hamas denies Israeli press reports about identity of new Hamas leader in Gaza Strip
Israeli military officials said Monday they believe Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, a surgeon and prominent Hamas official, is the new leader of the movement in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas denied the Israeli claims regarding Zahar, calling it a ploy to get information about the group's leadership structure.
Hamas has refused to identify the man chosen to replace Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the Hamas leader who was assassinated in an Israeli airstrike April 17.
Israel has said the group's entire leadership is marked for death.
All three major Israeli newspapers on Monday identified Zahar, who had been al Rantisi's deputy, as the new leader. Ismail Haniyeh has been appointed as A-Zahar's deputy, while the new No. 3 in the Hamas hierarchy is Said A-Siam, Haaretz newspaper said.
Israeli military officials, however, said it is impossible to identify the new leader with 100 percent certainty because of Hamas' fluid leadership structure.
Zahar, 53, was the former personal physician of Yassin. He was one of the small group of Hamas founders. He has escaped two Israeli assassination attempts, mostly recently a September attack that killed his eldest son and a bodyguard.
Ismail Haniyeh, a prominent Hamas spokesman in Gaza Strip, accused Israel of trying to trick Hamas into disxlosing sensitive information.
"This is a clear blow that the Israeli Zionist enemy is attempting to find information and to make us say yes or no," he said in an interview on a Hamas Web site. "Mentioning names by the Israeli enemy shows that they are preparing new aggression on Hamas." (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)