Hamas 'to step up attacks' after summit

Group claims deadlier rockets headed for Israel can be developed in a short period.

homemade kassam 298 (photo credit: AP)
homemade kassam 298
(photo credit: AP)
On the eve of the US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, Hamas has stepped up its threats against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel, saying it will increase its attacks on Israel after the parley. Hamas also expressed "astonishment" over the decision of the Arab League over the weekend to send Arab foreign ministers to the Annapolis conference. Musa Abu Marzouk, the number-two man in Hamas, said the post-Annapolis period would witness a dramatic escalation in anti-Israel attacks. "Resistance operations will be escalated in all forms and methods against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," he said. "Annapolis will expose the frivolity of the so-called 'peace process,' and its destructive repercussions on the Palestinian cause." The Syrian-based Abu Marzouk claimed that the Annapolis conference was being convened for two purposes: first, to back Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War and, second, to provide a cover for US plans to launch a military strike against Iran. Salah Bardaweel, spokesman for Hamas's parliamentary list, launched a scathing attack on Abbas, accusing him of seeking to exonerate Israel of its "crimes" against the Palestinians. He also accused Abbas of serving the security needs of Israel. "Abbas is providing Israel with a great excuse to consolidate the new facts on the ground that it has established," he said. "Just by sitting with Israel in front of the cameras, he is legitimizing Israel's crimes and aggression against the Palestinians." The Annapolis conference, Bardaweel added, won't achieve anything for the Arabs because Israel stood to be the only beneficiary. "The Arabs are making a huge mistake by going to the conference," he said. "Some are going against their will, while others are going because they need financial aid from the Americans or because they share Abbas's fears of the Islamic movements in the Arab world. In any case, Israel will emerge from the conference as a respected peace-loving country." In another Hamas response to the Arab League decision, the Islamist movement's spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said the move came as a shock to most Palestinians because it paved the way for normalization with Israel. "We were expecting an Arab consensus to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and to save the lives of many Palestinians who are stranded on the borders," he said. "We didn't expect to see agreement among the Arabs on meeting with Israel." Ahmed Yusef, political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said his movement was planning to develop the rockets that were currently being fired at Israel so as to use them as a balance of terror with Israel. "The rockets of the resistance will continue to serve as a warning to Israel," he said. "For now, these home-made rockets don't pose a major threat to Israel. But the experts are saying that they could be developed in a short period." Senior PA officials said they did not rule out the possibility that Hamas would try to thwart the conference by launching a terror attack on Israel or assassinating Palestinian officials in the West Bank. "We have taken a number of precautionary measures to ensure that Hamas does not succeed in spoiling the peace conference," a PA official told The Jerusalem Post Saturday. "We will use an iron fist against anyone who tries to break the law in the West Bank." As part of the continued crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, Abbas's security forces detained two senior Hamas figures as they were preparing to hold a press conference in Ramallah Saturday. Another five Hamas supporters were rounded up by Palestinian security forces throughout the West Bank over the weekend, further exacerbating tensions between Fatah and Hamas on the eve of the Annapolis gathering. Another PA official voiced concern over attempts by Hamas and other extremist groups to depict Abbas as a traitor for agreeing to attend the conference. "They are inciting against the president [Abbas] and accusing him of selling out to Israel," he noted. "They are actually calling for his death, and this is a serious matter." Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a top Fatah leader and close advisor to Abbas, called on Hamas to get rid of its leaders and to resume talks with Fatah to resolve the internal crisis. He said Hamas's "coup" in the Gaza Strip has only brought the Palestinians more suffering, destruction, repression and isolation. "It's indeed a big tragedy for the Palestinians that the leaders of the coup are still in power," he said. "These leaders are tools in the hands of regional powers that are meddling in the internal affairs of our people." Nabil Amr, another senior advisor to Abbas, said opponents of the Annapolis conference had the right to express their views through rallies and statements. "I want to salute those who are planning a conference in Gaza City to counter the Annapolis conference," he said. "They have the right to express their opinion and to be afraid of the Annapolis conference. It's better than those who resort to guns and bloodletting whenever differences arise." Defending the PA's decision to go to Annapolis, Amr said: "Our participation in the conference does not mean that we have accepted anything. The Arab peace initiative [of 2002] is clear in this regard. Normalization will not happen through a meeting or posing for pictures. The Arab countries have set conditions for normalization: solving the problems of the refugees, Jerusalem, prisoners, borders, as well as the rest of the final-status issues."