Troops hit Kassam launch-squad in Gaza

Haniyeh: Don't give "occupier" legitimacy; warns Abbas not to "fall into the trap" of peace conference.

October 12, 2007 18:18
3 minute read.
Troops hit Kassam launch-squad in Gaza

abbas Mashaal mecca 224.. (photo credit: AP)


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Hamas on Saturday morning said one of its fighters was killed and five other people were wounded in an Israeli ground missile attack in the early morning hours. The IDF said troops targeted a squad that had launched a rocket attack on Israel, and identified a hit. Meanwhile, Hamas' top leaders in Gaza and Syria warned PA President Mahmoud Abbas not to "fall into the trap" of an upcoming US-sponsored peace conference with Israel. Ismail Haniyeh, who was deposed as Palestinian prime minister after Hamas violently seized Gaza in June, urged Abbas to mend his rift with their Islamic faction and criticized him for planning to attend the peace conference next month. "Don't fall into the trap of the coming conference. Don't make new compromises on Jerusalem, on our sovereignty," Haniyeh said Friday, speaking to thousands of cheering supporters for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday. Hamas' Syria-based supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, echoed the warning in his own holiday message, accusing Israel and the US of taking advantage of the Palestinian rift to try to wrest concessions in peace negotiations. Abbas, of the rival Fatah movement, retaliated for Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip by expelling the group from his government and setting up his own administration in the West Bank. Mashaal urged Abbas to accept the Islamists' invitations for dialogue. Abbas and his allies "will find out that they are pursuing nothing but a mirage," Mashaal said on Hamas radio. Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, has been internationally isolated since it swept Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006. That isolation - and Gaza's - has only deepened since the group took over the strip. Israel has barred the entrance of all goods to the territory except humanitarian aid, and Western governments have imposed a financial boycott. Deepening the misery are ongoing clashes between the IDF and terrorists who fire rockets almost daily into Israel. Despite the two-headed nature of Palestinian rule, Israel and Abbas hope to present the contours of a final peace accord at the international conference, tentatively set for Annapolis, Maryland, at the end of November. Israel has been pressing for a vaguely worded document that would gloss over the toughest issues - borders, control over disputed Jerusalem and a solution for Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in the 1948 war that followed Israel's creation. Palestinians prefer a detailed preliminary agreement with a timetable for creating a Palestinian state. On Thursday, a key Palestinian negotiator said agreement on peace was near, adding that he doubted the US would convene the conference if the two sides did not agree in advance on outlines for an accord. "We have never been closer to achieving the end game than we are now," negotiator Saeb Erekat told Channel 10. Erekat discounted Hamas' ability to sabotage a peace accord. But although Abbas says he has authority over Gaza, in practice he has little influence there. Haniyeh, who now heads the Hamas government in Gaza, received a hero's welcome Friday from the crowd when he arrived at the Palestine Stadium in Gaza City with around 20 black-uniformed bodyguards for festive prayers. He told supporters Abbas could not negotiate without Hamas' backing. "Don't go to conference when you don't have the power card in your pocket - and the power card is Hamas," Haniyeh told his supporters. Gaza's international isolation, empty shelves and bitter internal rivalries cast a pall over the Eid al-Fitr holiday - meant to be one of the happiest dates on the Muslim calendar. Because tensions between Hamas and Fatah remain high, Hamas security forces were deployed in Gaza streets to keep order during the holiday. Even Friday's prayers were divided along factional lines, with separate locations for the two groups. Eid al-Fitr is customarily celebrated with family gatherings, presents and feasts. But as the festival approached this year, Gaza's streets and stores were relatively empty as residents were forced to cut back on purchases of clothes, toys and chocolates. Saleh Radwan, a clothing store owner, said he and other merchants "have nothing to sell for the people, and the people don't have enough money to buy with the prices we are offering." The scars left by Gaza's factional violence were visible Friday in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. Um Jawdat, the wife of a Fatah security officer killed during the Hamas takeover in June, said her 15 children missed the presents their father used to bring home on Eid al-Fitr. "What kind of festival is this when their father is not among them?" she asked.

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