Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened Sunday to resume attacks on Israel in response to Israeli "violations" of the cease-fire that was announced in the Gaza Strip last week. The threats came following Defense Minister Amir Peretz's announcement that the cease-fire would not be extended to the West Bank.
Analysis: A deceptive cease-fire
Peretz said during a meeting of the Security Cabinet that the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service will continue to operate in the West Bank to prevent terror attacks against Israel.
Palestinian Authority officials expressed fear that Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are backed by Syria and Iran, were seeking to create turmoil in the Palestinian territories in the wake of the collapse of the unity government talks.
"The two groups want to foil President [Mahmoud] Abbas's efforts to form a new government that would be able to end international sanctions imposed on our people," a senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post. "They are searching for an excuse to explode the situation."
A spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said in Gaza City that the cease-fire with Israel was "on the verge of collapse because of the continued Zionist violations and aggression on our people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
The spokesman, who identified himself as Abu Ahmed, added that Islamic Jihad "cannot remain idle in the wake of the Zionist breaches."
Urging all armed Palestinian groups to reconsider their position toward the cease-fire, Abu Ahmed accused Israel of violating the cease-fire 70 times in the past week. "We call on all parties to refrain from holding Islamic Jihad responsible for any response that will come in the next few hours," he said.
Khaled Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the Gaza Strip, said his group would force Israel to ask for another cease-fire in light of Israel's refusal to halt its military operations in the West Bank.
"We're not begging the enemy for a cease-fire and we will continue our resistance operations," he said. "The cease-fire will collapse because Israel is continuing its massacres, killings and detentions against our defenseless people in the West Bank."
Hamas representatives also warned that Israel's refusal to extend the cease-fire to the West Bank will lead to renewed fighting.
"Hamas has until now remained committed to the partial cease-fire despite Israeli breaches and threats to pursue its aggression in the West Bank," said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Barhoum claimed that Israel had killed four Palestinians, detained more than 130 others and demolished several houses in the West Bank since the cease-fire went into effect last week. "If the Israelis continue with the killings, assassinations and detentions, then they will bear the responsibility for the collapse of the cease-fire," he cautioned.
Barhoum said that when the armed groups agreed to stop firing rockets at Israel, they were convinced that this would result in a cease-fire that would include the West Bank and not only the Gaza Strip.
In yet another sign that Hamas is about to withdraw from the cease-fire agreement, the Islamic movement announced Sunday that it has suspended its participation in a Palestinian committee entrusted with maintaining the cease-fire.
Hamas officials said the decision to boycott the committee was taken in the wake of the breakdown of the unity government talks with Abbas's Fatah party. "Our top priority now is to iron out differences on the Palestinian arena and work toward achieving a national unity government," explained a Hamas official.
Hamas representatives later boycotted a meeting of several Palestinian factions that was headed by Abbas in Gaza City. The meeting was held to discuss the ongoing crisis between Hamas and Fatah and threats by Abbas to dismiss the Hamas-led government.