soldier in combat 298.88.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A senior Fatah member said on Thursday that although Israel should be condemned for its incursion into the Gaza Strip and the arrest of senior Hamas officials, it was Hamas who brought these actions upon the Palestinian people.
He blamed Hamas' uncompromising, extremist approach - especially that of Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Mashaal - for turning the whole world against the Palestinians.
The official, an associate of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel Radio said that Mashaal interfered with any attempt at moderation or mitigation of the economic embargo on the Palestinians.
Other officials throughout the Arab world reacted with concern to the escalation of the Israeli-Palestiniain crisis, criticizing Israel for causing suffering to Gaza residents and citing Israeli warplanes' buzzing of the Syrian president's home as especially troubling.
Qatar's foreign minister called the crisis "a critical situation."
"We might not agree with Syria on everything, but the least we could do in these circumstances, is to take a clear stance, not [just] talk," the foreign minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al Thani, said on al-Jazeera television.
In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, the kingdom's largest and most powerful opposition group, said Israel had launched its offensive into Gaza and "reached the door of Syria for the sake of one [captured Israeli] soldier, while Arabs, Muslims and the free world remain silent on the arrest of 10,000 Palestinians, including women and children." It called on the United Nations to press the Israelis to stop.
Despite their criticism, Arab governments also have worked ferociously behind the scenes to try to get the Palestinians to free the Israeli soldier - worried that the crisis will spin out of control and result in new violence across the region.
Egypt has been talking directly with the supreme leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal - in exile in Syria - to push him to facilitate the release, Egyptian officials have said. An aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has said both Abbas and Egyptian officials also had called Syrian President Bashar Assad to ask him to persuade Mashaal, with no results so far.
Egypt in particular worries that Gaza refugees might flood across its border if the Israelis increase their offensive in Gaza.
Mashaal's aides have denied he had a direct role in the capture, but Israel has accused him of masterminding the kidnapping. Late Wednesday, it sent warplanes to buzz the summer home of Assad, who it accuses of protecting Mashaal.
Early Thursday, Israeli forces also arrested nearly one-third of the Hamas-led Palestinian Cabinet and 20 lawmakers. Army Radio said the arrested Hamas leaders might be used to trade for the captured soldier. Israel had refused earlier to trade Palestinian prisoners for the soldier's release.
A Hamas official close to the Islamic movement's exiled leader refused to comment on how Hamas would respond if Israel proposed exchanging Palestinian politicians for the soldier.
The official, Osama Hamdan, who is Hamas' Lebanon representative and close to Mashaal, asserted that Hamas' leaders and the Syrian government would not be intimidated by the Israeli warplanes buzzing of Syria. He called past similar actions ineffective.
Meanwhile, commentators across the region seemed focused on the Syrian flyover and the looming humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, called the Israeli incursion and the buzzing of Assad's house an "unprecedented blackmailing threat."
Noting that Gaza residents were now without electricity because of Israeli bombing of the main power plant, he asked in a front-page editorial, posted on the Internet: "Is the life of the captive soldier worth the suffering of all of those people?"
In Kuwait, Abdul-Rahman al-Awadi, a former health and planning minister, told The Associated Press he worried that the violence, if it continued, "will spread to the whole area."
The English-language Jordan Times warned in an editorial that a "tragedy" awaits the Palestinian people. It accused the United States and the European Union of losing "vigor to intercede" in the Mideast conflict, while "Israel is free to act as it pleases."
"It is a sick situation," declared the daily.