NEWS & ANALYSIS: Changes in Hamas; Israel’s continued expansion

Hamas and al-Qaida: The prospects for radicalization in the Palestinian Occupied Territories

The rise of the Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas — in the Palestinian Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza provided a challenge for Israel and the West. Israel, the United States and the European Union have responded to this challenge by failing to differentiate Hamas from other and more radical Islamist movements and networks. That policy, which includes economic and political sanctions, now threatens to radicalize Palestinian society, pushing supporters of Hamas into the arms of al-Qaida and other salafist organizations. What are the prospects that — should the Hamas political program fail as a result of these sanctions — the Palestinian population will turn to more radical Islamist groups? [complete article]

IDF reservists: Hamas men fight like soldiers, not terrorists

Reserve-duty paratroopers who completed a month of duty in the Gaza Strip last week say that facing militant groups such as Hamas was like taking part in a “mini-war.”

During the patrol company’s operations deep in Palestinian territory, four Hamas militants and one Israel Defense Forces soldier, Sergeant-Major (Res.) Ehud Efrati, were killed. “The people we killed weren’t terrorists, they were soldiers,” an officer in the company told Haaretz.

“In a direct confrontation, the IDF has superiority over them, but in all parameters – training, equipment quality, operational discipline – we are facing an army, not gangs,” he said. [complete article]

Israel flouts pledge to curb settlements

Israel is enlarging 88 of its 122 West Bank settlements despite an agreement to halt the spread of Jewish communities in Palestinian territory, the watchdog group Peace Now said Wednesday.

A report by the group, which documented the construction of new homes with aerial photography and on-site visits, heated up the debate here over a key issue for the U.S.-sponsored peace summit planned by year’s end.

Israel wants to keep large blocks of settlements in a final peace accord, but the Palestinians demand the entire West Bank for a future state. Under a 2003 U.S.-backed plan known as the “road map,” Israel agreed to stop the expansion of settlements as a first step toward negotiations on final borders. [complete article]

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