Once again, prospects for peace in the middle east are threatened by Arab and Palestinian terrorist organizations. If peace fails to take root this time, it will be clear to all concerned it was due to HAMAS.
Hamas Leaders Vow to Fight After Pullout
August 13, 2005 11:40 AM EDT
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - For the first time in a decade, the founders and top political leaders of Hamas gathered on the same stage Saturday, vowing to go on fighting Israel and claiming victory for the Israelis' impending withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
In a direct challenge to the Palestinian Authority, the militant leaders rejected the idea of a sole decision-making body for the area and claimed the group's right to possess its own weapons.
Tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have heated up as Israel prepares to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements, with each trying to claim victory for the pullout scheduled to begin after midnight Monday.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israeli police barred young Muslim worshippers from a mosque compound and deployed thousands of officers throughout the Old City to guard against clashes between Jews and Muslims, police spokesman Shmulik Ben-Ruby said.
Thousands of observant Jews - many of whom oppose the Gaza withdrawal - were expected to pray at the Western Wall on the eve of the Tisha B'Av fast day. Muslim clerics urged their followers to go to Jerusalem to protect two mosques that sit on a compound overlooking the wall.
The Hamas news conference came just a day after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and other officials held the Palestinian Authority's first celebration of Israel's withdrawal.
Speakers at Friday's event insisted all festivities marking the pullout would take place under the official Palestinian flag - a warning to Hamas over its plans for its own military-style celebrations. Abbas also claimed credit for the Gaza pullout, promising that the West Bank and Jerusalem would be next.
But the Hamas leadership, positioned in front of the group's logo and a green Islamic flag, challenged the Palestinian Authority, saying its armed struggle led Israel to evacuate settlements and vowing not to lay down arms until Israeli occupation of all Palestinian territories ends.
Unlike the Palestinian Authority, which wants to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital, Hamas is sworn to the destruction of Israel.
"Hamas remains committed to the choice of resistance as a strategic choice. Hamas remains committed to its military wing and its right to possess weapons," said Ismail Haniyye, a top Hamas leader.
Hamas does not plan to battle the Palestinian Authority, Haniyye said, but he added that "Hamas rejects the idea of allowing any single party to monopolize the decision-making process."
Last month, armed clashes erupted when Palestinian security forces tried to stop Hamas militants from firing rockets and mortar shells at Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. Abbas wants Hamas to surrender their weapons to ensure a smooth withdrawal.
On Thursday, Hamas invited TV cameramen for the first time to film about 1,000 militants training ahead of the pullout. The release of the pictures of militants rappelling down high walls and jumping through hoops of fire was seen as a challenge to the Palestinian Authority.
It was unclear whether the training, which included infiltration techniques and a simulated attack on a Jewish settlement, meant Hamas was planning to fire on withdrawing Israeli troops and settlers.
Israel has promised severe retaliation for any attack on Israeli troops or settlers during the pullout.
Later Saturday, Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef put his forces in the Gaza Strip on their highest alert level to prevent militants from attacking withdrawing Israelis.
Hundreds of Palestinian officers took up positions in areas near the Jewish settlements, especially near the Khan Younis and Rafah refugee camps near the Jewish enclaves.
Despite the tensions between Hamas and Abbas' government, officials from the Islamic group planned to meet with their counterparts from the ruling Fatah movement Saturday to discuss upcoming elections and other issues.
The meeting is "significant," Haniyye said, adding that Hamas was attending with an "open heart."
What else is new? Whenever they are close to peace it's HAMAS that kills people, every time.
HAMAS is a group of savages that need to be neutralized for hope of any peace.
What Mid-East Peace… there is no Mid-East Peace. There is a wall that is the only peace you will ever get out of Palestinians. If the Palestinians want peace they could have it yesterday, the Palestinians want the extermination of Israel.
ETA: And it is just not Hamas.
You are spot on.