RAMALLAH - Some Fatah-affiliated militias are behind the latest wave of Kassam rocket attacks, in the hope of prompting a massive IDF operation in the Gaza Strip that would eventually bring down the new Hamas cabinet, Hamas officials claimed on Sunday.
The officials told The Jerusalem Post that the timing of the recent increase in attacks - almost immediately after the Hamas cabinet was sworn in - was not coincidental. They also accused some elements in the rival Islamic Jihad of working together with Fatah militias.
"Their main goal is to drag Israel into a major confrontation in order to bring down the Hamas administration," a Hamas minister said. He pointed out that Hamas was not involved in firing rockets and that the movement would continue to honor the unofficial truce with Israel.
He said he did not rule out the possibility that some of the Palestinian Authority's security forces were also involved in the "conspiracy" to topple the Hamas cabinet.
"The situation is very dangerous," he said. "I don't rule out the possibility that some of the security forces and their commanders are behind the rocket attacks. They want to plunge the area into anarchy so that they can say that Hamas has failed."
Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas cabinet, said the latest wave of violence was clearly aimed at confusing the new cabinet. He expressed regret that the international community was more interested in finding ways to isolate Hamas than in forcing Israel to halt its "state terror."
Another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, accused Israel of trying to bring down the new cabinet. "The latest Israeli military escalation is aimed at forcing the Palestinians to succumb and bringing down the new cabinet, which was elected in democratic elections," he said. "The Zionist crimes won't break the will of the Palestinian people and the occupation will pay a heavy price for its crimes."
Both Hamad and Zuhri refrained from openly blaming Fatah or any of the PA security forces.
Meanwhile, a row has erupted between Islamic Jihad's political and military wings over whether to stop Kassam attacks. Sources close to the military wing, al-Kuds Brigades, announced on Sunday morning that the group had decided to halt its attacks for at least one week because of the IDF strikes over the past few days.
"The decision was taken to prove to the world that Israel is initiating attacks on the Palestinians and that we are only responding," it said in a leaflet distributed in Gaza City. "We want to show the world that we are only defending ourselves and that we don't love bloodshed."
Hours later, Khaled al-Batsh and Khader Habib, the top political leaders of Islamic Jihad, denied that the group had agreed to suspend its rocket attacks.
PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh chaired an emergency meeting of his cabinet on Sunday to discuss the latest cycle of violence. The cabinet decided to request an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to condemn Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip, saying the Palestinians were entitled to "resist the occupation."
The cabinet also decided to dispatch Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar to a number of Arab and Islamic countries to seek financial and political backing for the PA.
Information Minister Yusef Rizkah told reporters that Israel was trying to "blackmail" the new cabinet and send a message to Palestinian voters that they had made the wrong choice by electing Hamas. "Israel's message is also directed to the Arab world," he said. "Israel is warning the Arab leaders against supporting the Hamas cabinet."
Rizkah called for an "open dialogue" between Hamas and the European Union, saying the new cabinet's "heart and mind" were prepared for such a move. "We want an open dialogue with all the European governments," he said. "Our hand is extended to them."
Criticizing the US and EU decision to halt financial aid to the PA following Hamas's victory, he said: "It's the duty of the Americans and Europeans to give us financial aid because they remained silent for over 50 years as Israel stole the lands of the Palestinians."