Weekend Wrap, December 31

Israel mulls Hamas-led PA; Gunmen raid Gaza gov't office; Kidnapped Brit to resume aiding Palestinians.

rafik hariri 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
rafik hariri 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel preparing to deal with Hamas-controlled PA Security officials and Foreign Ministry representatives will begin working Sunday on a policy that will determine Israel's future relations with the Palestinian Authority, in the event that Hamas wins the January PA elections. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad clashed over who would control mosques - a vital channel for election propaganda - in the Gaza Strip. Former Syrian VP: Hariri was threatened Former Syrian Vice President Abed el-Halim Khadem disclosed on Friday that prior to his murder, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik el-Hariri had left a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad "with high blood pressure and a bloody nose." Khadem also acknowledged that Hariri was threatened by Syria months before he was assassinated. He quoted the Syrian president as telling Hariri, months before he was killed: "You want to bring a (new) president in Lebanon. ... I will not allow that. I will crush whoever attempts to overturn our decision." MK Danny Yatom said Saturday that Khadem's statements confirmed suspicions that Assad was behind Hariri's death. Gunmen storm Gaza government office Dozens of Palestinian gunmen stormed buildings in Deir al-Balah, shooting their guns in the air and blocking roads with burning tires. The leader of the group threatened to escalate the protest unless PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas changed his employment policy, and hires more people from the Fatah party. This was the third such incident recently. British kidnap victim plans to stay Kate Burton, who was kidnapped with her parents Wednesday and held hostage by a previously unknown Palestinian terror organization, the Mujahedeen Brigades Jerusalem Branch, released a statement in which she said that she intended to stay in the Middle East and continue helping the Palestinians. Palestinian police negotiated the three Britons' release, and they were driven back to Israel late Friday. Pneumonia outbreak hits IDF base An epidemic has struck the Tzukei Uvda base in the Negev, leaving 13 basic training soldiers from the Engineering Corps ill. According to Army Radio, seven of the soldiers were admitted for treatment in hospitals, and six were released home. A female soldier was listed in critical condition at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. EU observers return to reopen Rafah The EU observers who monitored the Rafah crossing agreed to reopen it on Friday, hours after they were forced to close it by a group of 100 angry Palestinian policemen. The policemen stormed the crossing in protest of the killing of one of their colleagues in a family feud on Thursday. The EU monitors fled to a nearby IDF base and, since the Israeli-Palestinian agreement stipulated that it could not operate without the observers' presence, the border was closed. Lebanese soldiers dismantle rockets The Lebanese army searched for rockets such as the ones fired at Israel on Monday night, and tried to discover who owned them. Although the Lebanese prime minister condemned the attack, the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida took responsibility for the assault. In the Katyusha attack, six rockets were launched into Israel, striking the northern cities of Shlomi and two homes in Kiryat Shmona.