EREZ CROSSING, Gaza Strip – Israel fired missiles and sent tanks on a foray into Gaza on Wednesday, killing four Palestinians in the deadliest military action since Hamas militants took control of the coastal strip.
At the same time, Israel allowed in a few sick and wounded Palestinians of the hundreds of people who fled the violence — with many holed up for days at a fetid border passage with Gaza.
At the same time, Israel allowed in a few sick and wounded Palestinians who had been holed up for days at a fetid border passage with Gaza.
A teenager with leukemia and four other Palestinians in need of medical care went through the tunnel at the Erez crossing in Israel, the military said. Israeli officials also authorized entry of all foreigners living in Gaza.
Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian president, harshly criticized Hamas for its takeover of Gaza last week, referring to members of the group as “murderous terrorists.” He accused Hamas of trying to assassinate him when he planned a visit to Gaza a month ago, digging a tunnel under a road where his car was to pass and trying to fill it with more than 550 pounds of explosives. Hamas denied the allegation.
Despite the turmoil, Abbas said peace talks with Israel should resume and appealed for international help in convening a peace conference.
A U.N. agency, meanwhile, warned of general food shortages in Gaza within weeks if the main cargo crossing with Israel wasn’t reopened.
Israeli aircraft fired missiles at two rocket launchers in northern Gaza, in the first aerial attack on the strip since Hamas vanquished Abbas’ rival Fatah. No injuries were reported in the strike, which came in retaliation for militant rocket fire on Israel.
Israeli tanks, meanwhile, rolled about 600 yards inside southern Gaza before dawn, and four militants were killed in a gunbattle, Palestinian hospital officials said.
Hamas and the allied Popular Resistance Committees said gunmen fired on undercover troops, prompting the army to send six tanks, two armored personnel carriers and a bulldozer to the area.
The army said the entrance of the troops had been planned, was not a broad operation, and was meant to counter militant activity, including arms smuggling.
In the West Bank, two Palestinian militants were killed in a predawn shootout with Israeli troops on an arrest raid on a house near Jenin, residents said. One was a local commander from the Islamic Jihad militant group and the other a local commander from a violent offshoot of Fatah.
The army said armed men opened fire from the house on troops, who shot back, killing two militants.
Mahmoud Zahar, the man widely believed to be leading Gaza’s new Hamas rulers, said his group was open to a cease-fire with Israel if the army halts its activities there and in the West Bank. He said Hamas was capable of halting the frequent rocket attacks out of Gaza.
“But nobody will be the protector of the Israeli border,” he told The Associated Press.
In an attempt to consolidate power, the West Bank-based government installed by Abbas on Sunday annulled all decisions made by the previous Hamas government, Information Minister Riyad al-Malki said.
All citizens will be required to change their travel documents to papers issued in the West Bank — in effect invalidating documents previously issued in Gaza, al-Malki said. And security personnel will be deployed in force in the West Bank to restore law and order, he added.
About 200 Gazans, petrified by the chaos in the Hamas-controlled coastal strip, have been camped out for six days in a tunnel reeking of trash, urine and sweat on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing, pleading with Israeli authorities to grant them safe passage to the West Bank.
On Wednesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed officials to let in “humanitarian cases” at the crossing, the ministry said. No numbers were specified.
Saeb Erekat, a confidant of Abbas, said Israel had agreed to transfer 55 people to Israeli hospitals. Military spokesman Shlomo Dror would not confirm that number.
Military officials, who have said militants might try to squeeze through the passage, say not everyone in the tunnel is in danger. Israel, which has sophisticated weapons screening equipment in place at Erez, is only letting through the staff of international organizations and people with special permission.
Israel’s Supreme Court began hearing a petition by a human rights group demanding that Israel also offer immediate medical treatment to 26 critically ill Palestinians hospitalized in Gaza.
Ran Yaron, a doctor with the group, said the lives of 15 of the patients represented in the petition — including a teenager with lupus and a child suffering from cancer — were in jeopardy because treatment was not available in Gaza.
The court said it would rule on the petition Monday.
Military liaison official Shadi Yassin said Hamas’ takeover of Gaza deprived Israel of its main contact on humanitarian issues — Fatah-allied Palestinian police.
“Now, we don’t have this contact, and are trying in every way to obtain information from the Red Cross about sick people whose transfer to Israel must be coordinated,” he said.
Can’t you see that looks like the culprit is Israel? My goodness!
But USA TODAY’s title is worse: Abbas calls Hamas “murderous” as Israel attacks. So Israel is the one who should be called murderous, isn’t it?
More from CNN:
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday denounced Hamas
leaders as “traitors,” blaming them for planning their “bloody coup” in
Gaza while participating in a unity government.
He called on Hamas to apologize for the fighting in Gaza and to hand government offices to the new Palestinian leaders.
“We reject a monopoly of power by one group or faction,” Abbas said.
who heads the rival Fatah movement, addressed the Palestine Liberation
Organization — which he chairs — in Ramallah, West Bank, at a time
when he is seeking support for the government he installed under
emergency orders following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza last week.
called on the international community to “commit to an international
peace conference by which Israeli and Palestinian negotiation will take
“We are a nation that can rise above the wounds,” he said.
The creation of separate Palestinian micro-states last week left two of America’s closest Arab allies – Jordan and Egypt, which share borders with the West Bank and Gaza respectively – groping for a new policy toward a conflict that has spilled over their borders and contributes to their own instability.
These two secular and authoritarian states have far more in common with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah, which now controls the West Bank, than with the Islamist Hamas that won last week’s war for control of Gaza. When Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 that were deemed free and fair, it set alarm bells ringing in Cairo and Amman; they worried their local Islamists would be bolstered by Hamas’s success.
But that doesn’t mean Egypt or Jordan will quickly join the US and Israel in openly supporting Mr. Abbas.
The US and Israel are rewarding Abbas – far friendlier to Israel than Hamas – in the West Bank by lifting a crippling economic embargo, while maintaining the sanctions on the much poorer Gaza Strip. Their hope is that Hamas’s public support will evaporate under the weight of need, and Abbas’s stature will grow as his people experience relatively more prosperity.
“Our hope is that President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – who’s a good fellow – will be strengthened to the point where they can lead the Palestinians in a different direction,” President George Bush said after an Oval Office meeting Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
While that’s an outcome that the Egyptian and Jordanian governments hope for, given their hostility toward Hamas, it’s not one they feel they can back publicly, analysts say.
“Recent events have seen Arab publics turn on Hamas a bit, but that won’t necessarily hold,” says Nabil Gheishan, a columnist at Arab al-Yom, an independent Jordanian daily newspaper. “If this embargo of Gaza goes ahead, and people see massive suffering there while conditions improve in the West Bank, that will shift the public mood and take the pressure off Hamas.”
He says publicly backing such an approach could easily see the governments of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah branded as participating with Israeli and US-inflicted suffering on the Palestinians in Gaza.
The Hamas terror group will obtain emergency aid the U.S. announced it will provide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization, a top Hamas military leader told WND today.
“Like the American weapons in Gaza we told you will come to Hamas, also the weapons and aid the Americans are giving to Abu Mazen (Abbas) as part of their conspiracy against us in the West Bank will find its way to the Palestinian resistance and Hamas,” said Abu Abdullah, a senior operational member in Gaza of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas’ so-called “military wing.”
Abu Abdullah would not say whether Hamas was planning a coup in the West Bank similar to the complete takeover last week of all Fatah positions and U.S.-backed security compounds in the Gaza Strip, but he told WND he “hopes” the U.S. provides large quantities of weaponry to Fatah in the West Bank so Hamas can obtain them.
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