Palestinian academics urge Bush force settlement freeze

PA security forces say Hamas behind threats on Bush's life.

bush abbas 224.88 (photo credit:)
bush abbas 224.88
(photo credit: )
On the eve of Bush's visit to Ramallah, a group of Palestinian political figures and academics sent a letter to the US president urging him to pressure Israel to freeze settlement construction. "A total and immediate cessation of all settlement activities is a prerequisite for the success of the peace process and the negotiations," they wrote. Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, welcomed Bush's visit to Ramallah, saying it was tantamount to recognition of the Palestinian entity and the existence of the Palestinian people. He said Abbas would call upon Bush to employ pressure on Israel to fulfill its commitments in accordance with the road map peace plan and the decisions of the Annapolis peace conference. Prior to his visit, PA security officials expressed concern over threats by Palestinian groups to kill Bush. "We are taking these threats very seriously," a senior PA security official told The Jerusalem Post. "We have taken several precautionary measures to foil any attempt to target Bush or to disrupt his visit." Another PA security official accused Hamas of being behind most of the threats against the US leader. "Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into a safe haven for numerous terrorist groups," he said. "All these groups are operating there under the auspices of Hamas." Several Palestinian political factions are planning to defy the PA by staging a demonstration in downtown Ramallah to protest against Bush's visit to the city. The PA has warned that it would use force to break up the protest. In the Gaza Strip, the hitherto unknown Army of the Nation called to kill Bush. At least two other Islamic radical groups in the Strip have issued similar threats in the past 24 hours. Some 20 masked gunmen belonging to the Army of the Nation held a press conference in Khan Yunis in which they condemned Bush as the "leader of the infidels" and accused him of "waging war against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine." The group vowed to receive Bush with suicide bombers during his visit to the Palestinian territories. A spokesman for the group who identified himself as Abu al-Hifs denied his men were affiliated with al-Qaida or Fatah al-Islam. "We are all Muslim youth from here," he said. "Fatah al-Islam and al-Qaida are our brothers. Although we have no ideological difference between us, we don't belong to them." Thousands of Hamas supporters demonstrated throughout the Gaza Strip Wednesday in protest against Bush's visit, chanting "Death to America" and "Bush is a terrorist." They also burned Israeli and US flags, as well as an effigy of Bush. "Bush is not welcome in Palestine," Hamas representative Mushir al-Masri said in a speech before the demonstrators. "Our people can't be bought with money. Our people won't sell Jerusalem and the rights of the refugees in return for money. Our people have chosen the path of jihad to liberate Palestine and we will never abandon this choice." Masri accused Bush of giving Israel a green light to assassinate Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin in the northern Gaza Strip in 2004. Masri also accused the US president of supporting Fatah in its attempts to topple the Hamas government after the Islamist movement won the parliamentary election in January 2006. He added that the US weapons that had been given to Fatah were now being used by Hamas to attack Israel. Salah Bardaweel, another senior Hamas figure in the Gaza Strip, said Bush came to the region to help Israel and Fatah in their efforts to eliminate the Palestinian "resistance." Bush, he added, came to personally supervise the security operations against the "resistance" groups. "He wants to deepen divisions among the Palestinians and destroy the Palestinian resistance completely," Bardaweel said. Marwan Abu Ras, a Hamas legislator, accused Bush of being behind the continued closure of the Gaza Strip and providing Israel with weapons that were being used to kill Palestinians. Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh said Bush did not come to the region to help create a Palestinian state, but to protect Israel and "to prevent our warriors from carrying out jihad."