Palestinians welcome Hizbullah attack

Fatah, Hamas officials hail kidnapping; call for prisoner release.

Palestinian riot 298.88 (photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli )
Palestinian riot 298.88
(photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli )
Palestinians across the political spectrum on Wednesday welcomed the kidnapping of the two IDF soldiers by Hizbullah and expressed optimism that the move would lead to the release of thousands of prisoners from Israeli jails. Spokesmen for a number of armed and political groups also expressed their hope that the Arabs and Muslims would eventually join the fight against Israel. Both Fatah and Hamas officials hailed the attack as "heroic" and urged Hizbullah not to release the soldiers unless Israel agreed to free all Palestinian prisoners. In several places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate the kidnapping of the two soldiers and to voice their support for Hizbullah. Families of prisoners gathered outside the offices of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City and handed out sweets to passersby. "This is a great day for the Palestinian people," said Um Amjad, whose son Muhammed has been in prison for nearly 10 years. "We want to thank [Hizbullah Secretary-General] Hassan Nasrallah for this wonderful gift and we hope that today's heroic operation will result in the release of all our sons from Israeli prisons." Also in Gaza City, gunmen belonging to various Palestinian groups opened fire into the air as an expression of joy and called on Hizbullah and Hamas to kidnap more soldiers. Palestinian lawyers and human rights organizations reported that thousands of prisoners held in Israeli jails began chanting and dancing as soon they heard about the abduction of the two soldiers. "The prisoners are celebrating because they feel that they will be release soon now that Israel has three soldiers in captivity," said a Bethlehem-based lawyer who represents security prisoners. "They feel that they are close than ever to freedom." The Hamas government said in a statement that the Hizbullah attack was a "natural response to Israeli crimes against our people in the Palestinian territories." The statement added: "It's inconceivable to leave the Palestinians alone in facing the mighty Israeli military machine. We call upon all the Arab and Muslims to rise in defense of the Palestinian people." Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a senior Fatah leader and close advisor to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, sent greetings to Hizbullah "for aiding their Palestinian brethren." Defending the recent Hizbullah and Hamas attacks on Israel as "legitimate acts of self-defense," he called on the two groups to demand the release of all Palestinians and Arabs from Israeli jails. "The Palestinian resistance is a natural right," he said. "The Palestinians won't succumb and we will continue to fight until the liberation of all the Palestinian territories." Abdel Rahman said the abduction of the two soldiers was an "encouraging sign" for the Palestinians and expressed hope that the entire Arab and Muslim countries would come to help the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel. In a separate development, a spokesman for Abbas denied on Wednesday a report in a London-based newspaper to the effect that the PA chairman had threatened to resign and dissolve the PA in protest against the ongoing Israeli military strikes in the Gaza Strip. The spokesman described the report in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper as "nonsense" and said Abbas had no intention of stepping down. The paper claimed that Abbas made the threat during a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice last week.