PNA and Hamas: Israel Is Fuelling Palestinian In-fighting
PM Qurei: Israel Wants to Isolate Us from Gaza, Undermine Cairo Declaration
Palestine Media Center - PMC [Official PA website]
Inviting Palestinian retaliation with the aim of exacerbating the
inter-Palestinian fighting that claimed two deaths and wounded more than
twenty in less than 24 hours, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF)
extra-judicially shred to pieces by air strikes six anti-occupation
activists in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Friday, giving hard time to
both the Palestinian government and the main opposition group Hamas.
The Israeli military escalation "comes at a time when we are trying to
maintain the rule of law," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said,
adding that the IOF air strikes "undermine our ability to do so" when the
Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is doing its utmost to maintain the
fragile truce President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon reached on February 8.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei in a press conference early Saturday
warned that Israel's military escalation is "an attempt by Israel to meddle
in our internal Palestinian life."
Israel's second aim is to "destroy the Cairo understandings," he said,
referring to the Cairo Declaration, which the PNA and 13 anti-occupation
factions reached earlier this year and agreed upon a one-year truce with the
The truce is a higher Palestinian national interest, he reconfirmed,
appealing to all to preserve it.
Qurei indicated a third reason for the Israeli military escalation.
Israel "wants to isolate us" from its unilateral plan to "disengage" its
soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip.
"They (the Israelis) want to create a buffer zone" between the PNA and the
disengagement process," he said, adding that the IOF are planning a military
operation against the Gaza Strip, declaring that 40 IOF tanks are now
amassing at the Strip's borders.
Qurei said the Israeli disengagement plan has become an "international plan"
and "we have no other alternative but to bypass the disengagement
Hamas Similarly Aware of Israel's Goals
Similarly the Islamic Resistance Movement "Hamas" renewed its commitment to
the truce but warned that the Israeli lack of reciprocity is seriously
threatening the cease-fire.
"Hamas and all Palestinian factions, including the Islamic Jihad, are still
committed to the truce," Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal told The
Associated Press by telephone, speaking from an Arab country that he
declined to disclose.
However, citing more than 47 Palestinians killed during the cease-fire,
Mashaal warned that "Israel is provoking the Palestinian factions to force
them to break the truce," he said.
"The continued aggressions and provocations by Israel would create a climate
whereby there can be no calm," he said. "No one can prevent the Palestinians
from retaliating for the Israeli aggression and from defending themselves."
Six Palestinian Activists Shred to Pieces
Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon said Friday that he had "ordered the army to take
all necessary measures against terrorist organizations," indicating that
there was "no limit" on the orders handed down to the IOF.
Inviting Palestinian retaliation, two simultaneous IOF air strikes claimed
the lives of six Hamas activists in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on
Bodies of Adel Mohammad Haniyya, 29, A'asem Marwan Abu Ras, 23, Saber Abu
Aasi, 24, and Amjad Anwar Arafat were shred to pieces when an IOF US-made
Apache helicopter fired a missile into a van, tearing it apart and
scattering shards of metal and body parts hundreds of yards away from the
Tel el-Hawa street in Gaza city.
The van was filled with homemade rockets, Palestinian security officials
reportedly told wires.
Minutes earlier, another IOF Apache fired three missiles at a car in a
mountainous area between the illegal Jewish colony of Ariel and the
Palestinian West Bank town of Salfit, extra-judicially killing
anti-occupation activists Mohammad Ahmad Salamah Murei and Mohammad A'aish,
and seriously injuring Samer al-Hirbawi, WAFA reported.
"I saw two helicopters firing three missiles in the area of Wadi al-Shaer,
and then they sprayed the area with heavy machine gunfire. Usually men
wanted by Israel hide there," local resident al-Watheq Billah, told Reuters
PNA premier Qurei rejected the Israeli military escalation at his press
conference Saturday and condemned Israeli extra-judicial assassinations,
declaring the victims as "our martyrs, our sons."
The latest deaths raised the Palestinian death toll to more than 3,876 since
the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising) against the 38-year old
Israeli occupation on September 28, 2000.
Early Saturday IOF air force resumed its air strikes in Gaza Strip,
destroying civilian vehicle and bicycle workshops and injuring two children.
Before dawn Friday, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at four targets at
three locations in Gaza, including buildings the IOF claimed were used for
The strikes allegedly came in response to a rocket attack on Nativ Haasara,
an Israeli communal farm just outside Gaza. A rocket crashed through a porch
roof and killed Dana Glakowitz, 22.
Israeli media reported that Palestinian home-made rockets were Saturday
still showering Israeli towns and illegal colonies, particularly Sderot.
Earlier Friday, Sapir College in the Western Negev suffered heavy damage
from a mortar and rocket attack. Kassams and shells also hit Gush Katif
colony bloc, causing damage but no injuries.
The IOF split the Gaza Strip into three military sections, tightly
restricting the Palestinian freedom of movement.
Palestinian Ministry of Interior urged immediate international intervention
to stop the Israeli aggressive escalation.
Palestinian Ministry of Health declared a state of emergency in all its
hospitals and clinics.
The PNA sparked an inter-Palestinian crisis in its efforts to stop
Palestinian retaliation to Israeli extra-judicial assassinations.
Threatening to undermine a five-month-old truce, fighting among Palestinians
claimed the lives of two Palestinian bystanders and more than a dozen people
were wounded on Friday in gun battles between Palestinian security forces
and Hamas anti-occupation activists, a day after five others were wounded in
This was the worst fighting among Palestinians since the mid-1990s when
Palestinian police killed more than 17 protesters in clashes with
stone-throwers outside a Hamas-stronghold mosque in Gaza Strip.
"One civilian was killed and a total of 16 injured, several of them
seriously," a doctor at a Gaza hospital told Agence France Presse (AFP).
15-year old boy Mohammad al-Ammarin was identified as one of the two
victims, the second as teenager Ismail al-Amarin, 17.
Palestinian medical sources said six of the wounded were members of the
security forces and the rest were civilian bystanders, some of whom were
caught in the crossfire in the densely populated neighborhood of Al-Zeitoun,
Qurei: Reinforcing PNA a National Duty
Amid an exchange of blame and accusations, Ahamd Qurei told reporters on
Saturday in the West Bank city of Ramallah that he would not compromise on
"reinforcing the rule of law and order and the PNA image as a national
"Without the PNA there is no place for the national agenda. The only
alternative to the national agenda is the Israeli agenda," he said.
Therefore he appealed for all Palestinian factions to protect the PNA if
they want to defend the national agenda.
However other Palestinian officials were less conciliatory.
They accused Hamas of a "real conspiracy against the PNA and its
leadership," according to presidential adviser Nabil Abu Rudeinah and of
"undermining" the truce with Israel according to top security adviser Jibril
PNA Cabinet minister Sakher Bseisso, who was involved in contacts with Hamas
in the past, said the Islamic movement was leaving President Abbas little
choice but to crack down. "Hamas is trying to impose its control on the
ground," he said.
The ruling Fatah movement separately held Hamas completely responsible for
the bloodshed. What happened "is a premeditated plan aiming at undermining
the PNA with its present leadership and to take it over by legitimate and
illegitimate means," WAFA quoted a statement by Fatah as saying.
Palestinian Interior Ministry similarly blamed Hamas for firing on the
Hamas in the Eye of the Storm
Hamas in the eye of the storm and sandwiched between the pressure of its
commitments to a fragile truce with Israel and that of the Israeli
aggressive military escalation, denied any role in fueling the clashes.
Hamas demanded the sacking of Interior Minister Nassr Yousef, whom Qurei at
his Saturday's press conference defended as enforcing a government policy
and not a personal agenda.
"We are asking for the dismissal of the interior minister because keeping
him in his dangerous job will be very dangerous for Palestinian unity,"
Hamas said in a statement faxed to the AFP.
"What is happening in Gaza is a dangerous crime against our people and was
directly ordered by the interior minister... What is happening is part of
Nasr Yussef's plan to destroy resistance," the statement added.
Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri told the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite TV
station that the clashes were not spontaneous but were a deliberate attempt
by the PNA to prevent the resistance group from "defending the Palestinian
people against Israel's aggression."
He, however, affirmed that the resistance group remained committed to the
truce, stressing "the truce must be respected by the both sides."
State of Emergency Declared in Gaza
Yousef put security forces and police on high alert to "prevent by force if
necessary all firing of rockets and mortars" against Israeli targets.
Yousef said Friday that his forces will "not hesitate" to restore law and
order, and ordered rocket attacks into Israel to be stopped by all means.
Hamas activists hit a PNA armored personal carrier Friday with a
rocket-propelled grenade, and torched a police car.
The confrontations began in northern Gaza Strip Thursday evening, when
police said they tried to stop a Hamas squad from firing rockets at nearby
Israeli towns. A firefight erupted, and five Hamas activists were wounded.
In response, dozens of Hamas gunmen attacked a Palestinian police post in a
different area, firing machine guns, hurling grenades and setting the two
police cruisers on fire.
Visiting German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Thursday that the
Palestinians will never have an independent state until "violence and
"Terrorism will have no positive results, and there will be no chance to
establish an independent Palestinian state as long as violence and terrorism
continue," Fischer said after meeting Qurei.
Fischer however assured the Palestinians that Israel's withdrawal next month
from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank settlements would not be the
end of international efforts to bring peace to the region.
"Our policy is not fixated on Gaza, but seeks an independent, peaceful and
democratic Palestinian state. This is the objective of the (UN-adopted)
roadmap," Fischer said.