Israeli troops accompanied by about a dozen tanks moved into southern Gaza on Tuesday, a day before Israelis and Palestinians were due to hold their first talks on a comprehensive peace following the American-led conference in Annapolis, Md.
The Israelis went as far as two miles into Hamas-run Gaza, near the towns of Khan Yunis and Rafah, and engaged Palestinian gunmen along the border, according to Palestinian residents and spokesmen for the Israeli Army.
At least six Palestinians were killed. Three of them, from Islamic Jihad, died when a tank shell struck the house they were using for cover; three more, from the Popular Resistance Committees, died from missiles fired by Israeli planes and helicopters. [complete article]
Hamas on Tuesday called on the Palestinian Authority to boycott the first working session with Israel since last month’s Annapolis conference, citing the Israel Defense Forces operation in the Gaza Strip earlier in the day, in which six Palestinians were killed.
“The hand of the enemy is still dripping with the blood of the martyrs,” Taher Nunu, a Hamas spokesman, said. “It is a mark of shame to go to the negotiations tomorrow.” The militant organization has been in control of Gaza since its violent seizure of the coastal territory in June. [complete article]
The old tricks – like expanding the settlements’ external boundaries, building new settlements under the guise of neighborhoods of existing settlements or, the most beloved excuse of all, “natural growth” – deceive nobody. They merely provide the Palestinians with ammunition for their propaganda, help Hamas to claim that Olmert is humiliating Abbas and push Bush and Rice into taking a stand against Israel.
The Annapolis festivities have ended, and the test will be in the dull implementation. Thus far, not a single outpost has been evacuated, not the slightest diplomatic progress has been made, and Israel is retreating into the worst of all possible worlds – subject to terror attacks that the Palestinians are still not really trying to restrain, yet putting itself, with its own hands, on the diplomatic defensive. At this rate, and with this sagacity, the Annapolis conference will prove no more than a barren footnote. [complete article]
Who says there is no cooperation between the Palestinian Authority/Fatah and Hamas? Indeed, ever since June the two sides have been working energetically, in a kind of pas de deux of demonstrative pirouettes, so that the Gaza Strip will become another quasi-state entity with its three governing authorities – executive, legislative and judiciary – separate from those in Ramallah. All three branches are acting outside the delegated powers of the PA president, with the help of a separate police force and a system of taxation, collection and other payments. Two non-states for one people. [complete article]