Hamas rejects int'l troops in Gaza

Izzadin al-Kassam vows to attack them like other "occupation forces."

UN observers 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
UN observers 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas on Saturday rejected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's call for deploying an international force in the Gaza Strip, warning that its men would attack any such organization. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who heads one of two rival PA governments, said an international force was not acceptable. "We in Gaza and the Palestinian territories are under occupation and we don't need any more forces to pressure the Palestinian people," Haniyeh said during a tour of a home in Gaza City that belongs to the estate of Yasser Arafat. "We are able to solve our problems." Abbas, who is trying to win US and EU backing for dispatching an international force to the Gaza Strip, raised the proposal during a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Friday. Abbas lashed out at the "putschists" of Hamas for their violent takeover of Gaza earlier this month, and said he hoped to stage presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of the current terms. "I proposed an international force in Gaza" to Sarkozy to ensure the elections can be held peacefully, Abbas said. "Elections necessitate a certain stability in security." Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states have rejected Abbas's call, urging him instead to resume dialogue with Hamas on the formation of a second Hamas-Fatah unity government. "Any force that enters the Gaza Strip will be dealt with as an occupation force," Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, said in a statement. "We will receive them with rockets and mortars." The group called on the international community to reject Abbas's plan because it "will be regarded as an attempt to add another occupation." French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, at a news conference with Abbas in Paris on Friday night after the two met, said only, "An international force cannot replace the peace process." Kouchner urged a renewal of broader Mideast peace efforts. "Our Israeli friends and our Palestinian friends can count on France." Sarkozy offered solid support to Abbas and confirmed new French direct aid worth $20m. to the Palestinian Authority, renewed after a 16-month embargo following Hamas' election win last year. "We want your victory. You are the guarantor of peace," Sarkozy told Abbas, according to his spokesman David Martinon. "France's goal is the creation of a free, independent and viable (Palestinian) state," Sarkozy said. He reiterated, however, France's demands for the release of IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, captured by Palestinian terrorists a year ago. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said it was strange that Abbas was demanding the deployment of an international force after his "corrupt security forces failed in their mission to defend the Israeli occupation and destroy Hamas." He said Abbas was now hoping international troops would be able to carry out that mission. "We see no difference between such a force and the Israeli occupation," Barhoum said. The Hamas spokesman reiterated his movement's readiness to resume talks with Fatah. But, he added, Abbas has rejected Arab and Islamic calls to resume the dialogue with Hamas. "Abbas wants to talk to Hamas, but according to his preconditions," Barhoum said. "On the other hand, he goes to talk to the Israelis without preconditions." Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas government, said his movement was totally opposed to "internationalizing" the Palestinian issue. "We should be talking about how to end the occupation and restore our rights, and not how to bring a foreign force to the Gaza Strip," he said. Ayman Taha, another Hamas spokesman, condemned Abbas's initiative as an attempt to consolidate the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. "Abbas is trying to return to the Gaza Strip with the help of external forces," he said. "Hamas will consider an international force as an occupying power." Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a senior Fatah leader and adviser to Abbas, said his faction would not talk to Hamas as long as the Islamist movement did not recognize the official PA government and institutions. "There will be no dialogue with these murderers," he stressed. "If they want to talk, they must recognize the legitimate bodies of the Palestinians and dismantle their bloody militias. Hamas wants to take the Palestinians many centuries back. They want to impose their own version of Islam on the Palestinians, but they know nothing about Islam. They are ignorant people who claim to serve Islam."