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(photo credit: AP)
Enraged by the failure of the Arab countries to help Hizbullah and Hamas in their confrontation with Israel, one of the major Palestinian militias announced on Tuesday that it had recruited dozens of women to join the fight against Israel.
Dressed in military fatigue and armed with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles, the women were sent to march in the streets of Gaza City, chanting slogans in support of Hizbullah and Hamas and calling on all Arabs and Muslims to launch a war against Israel. Some of the women fired into the air as they passed near the offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
This was the first time that armed Palestinian women held a paramilitary march in the Gaza Strip. The women, some under the age of 20, belong to a new force that was revealed by the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various militias that has been operating in the Gaza Strip over the past five years.
The decision to establish the new force comes one week after the armed wing of Fatah announced the formation of a female suicide bomber unit to launch attacks against Israel. Um al-Abed, a spokeswoman for the group, said last week that over 100 women from the West Bank and Gaza Strip had signed up to carry out suicide attacks.
"Today we have established an army of women to defend the Arabs and Muslims," said Shayma al-Koka, one of the leaders of the force whose members marched in Gaza City on Tuesday. "If Arab men can't defend the honor of the Arabs and Muslims, then the women will fulfill their duty. Arab men and armies have failed in carrying out their moral and religious duties."
She added: "We are sick and tired of waiting for the Arab leaders and governments to defend the people of Palestine and Lebanon. The Arab leaders and armies are sleeping and therefore we, the women of Palestine, will join the jihad against the Jews. I advise the Arab leaders to go underground because we and all the honorable Arabs and Muslims will prevail."
Chanting Allahu Akbar [God is great], the women also burned flags of some Arab and European countries, as well as Israel and the US.
Echoing frustration with what is described as the "impotence" of the Arab world, the Palestine National Council, the PLO's parliament-in-exile, urged all Arabs and Muslims to side with Lebanon in the current confrontation with Israel. The council expressed deep concern at the failure of the Arab countries to assist the Palestinians and Lebanese who are "facing physical elimination and the destruction of their infrastructure."
Hamas, meanwhile, is seeking to distance itself from Hizbullah and most of its top leaders have refrained thus far from embracing the Shi'ite organization in public. Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas representative in the Gaza Strip, denied reports in the Arab media that his movement was working closely with Hizbullah.
"There is no organizational relation between Hamas and Hizbullah," he said. "As resistance groups, we share the same goals and strategies in facing the Israeli occupation."
He too criticized the Arab countries for failing to come to the aid of their brothers in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. "When will the Arab leaders finally wake up?" Bardaweel asked.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday that Israel's recent air raids on a number of PA ministries reflected the "mentality of insanity that characterizes Israeli leaders." Israel, he added, has embarked on "crazy adventures in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Lebanon." Haniyeh was speaking after chairing a meeting of his cabinet in Gaza City to discuss the latest developments on the Palestinian arena and the ongoing Israeli crackdown on Hamas.
In another development, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to arrive in Gaza City on Tuesday night for talks with Hamas leaders about kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was being held by Hamas members. Abbas was also expected to meet with United Nations envoy Terje Roed Larsen to discuss ways of ending the crisis and securing the release of Shalit.
Abbas's visit to the Gaza Strip comes amid renewed tensions between his Fatah party and Hamas. Earlier this week, Hamas gunmen killed a senior officer belonging to the Preventative Security Service in Khan Younis. The victim, Zaki Dahlan, is a relative of former PA security chief Muhammed Dahlan.
On Tuesday, Hamas gunmen launched a rocket attack at the home of Nabil Tamous, another senior Preventative Security Service officer, killing one of his guards and kidnapping three others. Tamous himself was not hurt in the attack, but his house was completely destroyed. Tamous, who is a close ally of Dahlan, heads the "Death Squad" of the Preventative Security and is said to be responsible for a series of attacks on Hamas activists and leaders over the past few years.
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