Hamas member killed after truce called

Abbas, in Cairo, condemns Eilat blast, declares Hamas's Executive Force illegal.

zahar 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
zahar 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A senior Hamas official was killed and another wounded in the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Hussein al-Shabasi was shot and killed on his way out of one of the mosques in the city, in the first incident of violence since the cease-fire was signed between Hamas and Fatah on Monday night. The truce came after five days of intense Hamas-Fatah in fighting that left 34 people dead. Hamas said that despite the killing, they were still committed to the cease fire.
  • Defuse the conflict (editorial) Previous truce deals struck in recent weeks of factional clashes however quickly collapsed, and it appeared unlikely the two sides would comply with all the terms of the current agreement, such as handing over all those involved in killings and abductions. In the past, Hamas and Fatah gunmen used periods of lull to prepare for the next round of fighting. The shaky truce deal, struck by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and a Rauhi Fattouh, an envoy of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, came as a two-month cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians was being jeopardized by a Palestinian suicide bombing, the first since April. The bomber, a 21-year-old from Gaza, struck the Israeli resort city of Eilat on the Red Sea on Sunday, killing three people and himself. Hamas, which controls the Palestinian parliament and Cabinet, praised the attack as legitimate resistance, and Israeli leaders hinted that a military response was being considered. Abbas, meanwhile, denounced the bombing, speaking to reporters after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Tuesday. "I condemn it, and it doesn't benefit us at all," Abbas said. But, he added, "I don't think this operation by itself will affect the truce between us and the Israelis in the Gaza Strip." In Gaza City, gunfire and explosions were heard throughout the night, but the shooting stopped at about 5 a.m., several hours after the cease-fire deal was struck. Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas said the agreement stipulates that all security forces return to their bases, that suspects in killings are to be handed over, and that all hostages still being held - a number thought to be in the dozens - are to be released. He also said all roadblocks set up by the factions are to be removed. Fatah spokesman Maher Mekdad said his group would observe the agreement. "Despite all the bitterness and sadness that we are feeling, we will work to make it succeed," he said. During the fighting, both sides had set up roadblocks around the offices and homes of leaders, as well as in neighborhoods they control. On Tuesday morning, Hamas had removed roadblocks from some areas, while security forces loyal to Abbas continued to block off some roads. The underlying cause of the fighting - a bitter power struggle between Hamas and Fatah, about equal in strength - has not been resolved. Coalition talks have broken down and appear unlikely to resume soon. Abbas, meanwhile, is determined to go ahead with calling early elections, a plan denounced by Hamas as a coup attempt. In his meetings with Mubarak, Abbas told reporters that the Hamas-created security unit Executive Force must be dissolved as its formation was unconstitutional. "As for the issue of the Executive Force," he said of the security unit set up by the Hamas government last year, "this is illegitimate and illegal. The creation of a security force requires a law, and such a law was not passed." Referring to his negotiations with Hamas on forming a new government, Abbas said: "We only agreed on dissolving the (Executive) Force, and some of its troops will join the regular security apparatus. It will not exist as an independent force."