Hamas to End Truce as Tensions Mount
Hamas’ political leader, Khaled Meshaal, has declared from a rally in Damascus that Hamas will end its truce with Israel when the current agreement expires at the end of the year.
Addressing the crowd at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Mr Meshaal said there was no room for a truce.
“I say to our brothers in the [Palestinian] Authority that we are witnessing political stagnation,” he said.
“I say it loudly, we will not enter a new truce and our people are preparing for a new round of conflict.”
Meshaal was expelled from Jordan in the late 1990’s, where he was arrested and imprisoned after returning form a trip to Iran. Since his expulsion, he has been based in Damascus, Syria, as head of Hamas’ political bureau.
Come the beginning of January, the largest Palestinian terrorist group is likely to once again actively engage in direct attacks on Israel. Unlike the PIJ and others, Hamas has been the only group to curtail activities and observe the unofficial truce.
Meanwhile, Israeli security forces at a West Bank checkpoint intercepted and detained a teenage Palestinian suicide bomber with two cans of explosives and shrapnel strapped to his chest. Their attention was drawn to him as he was wearing a large bulky coat on an otherwise very warm day. The explosives were removed and destroyed by an EOD team before his arrest.
A day earlier at another checkpoint, a Palestinian crossing from the West Bank into Jerusalem through and Israeli checkpoint stabbed and killed an IDF soldier. The IDF has since shut down the crossing into Jerusalem.
While Israel continues to use artillery to pound northern Gaza’s open fields, used for Qassam rocket firing positions, IDF operations into the West Bank also continued in the overnight heading into Friday morning. Israeli security forces arrested 19 suspected terrorists near the West Bank town of Tulkarem overnight, with 10 belonging to the PIJ, the group responsible for Monday’s Netanya suicide bombing that killed 5 Israeli civilians. Tulkarem is the town where the recent Netanya suicide bomber lived.
The Palestinian Authority is apparently also rounding up terrorists suspected to be involved with the Netanya killings and has confirmed that it has apprehended 17 members of the PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad). Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Majd claims that 80 PIJ members have been arrested by the PA. It appears that the Israelis are detaining any and all members of the PIJ that they can identify, while the PA seems to be more selective and arresting those suspected of Netanya bombing involvement. However, as selective as they may appear to be, they are not detaining key PIJ leaders, whom they certainly can identify.
“These people are not our top members, but these arrests still affect us,” he [PIJ spokesman Abu Majd] said. He said those arrested including low-level operatives, university leaders and even high school students.
The rocket attacks have tailed off since Israel has been persistently hammering the usual firing points with artillery. While media reports consistently refer to them as ‘empty open fields’, largely because there seem to be no casualties, what is likely happening is the IDF is monitoring potential and historical Qassam firing positions 24/7 with unmanned aerial drones and hammering away when there is any movement in them. Also likely is the use of the artillery firings being purely a deterrent on other occasions. If and when Israel relaxes the artillery fire, the rocket attacks will pick back up. Right now, the PIJ and Popular Resistance Committees are keeping their heads down, possibly considering buildings from which to fire under at least some concealment. With the aerial monitoring, even transporting the missiles to their potential firing positions is risky, especially at the load and unload points.
Following on the missile strike that killed a Popular Resistance Committees field commander, Israel launched a missile attack Thursday on a house that contained two al-Aqsa martyrs Brigades terrorists in the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya, killing both of them. The two were, among other things, said to be involved directly in the recent rocket and mortar attacks. At their funerals, Palestinians were in the streets chanting “revenge, revenge”.
A PA spokesman condemned Israel’s self-defensive counterattacks as counterproductive.
Palestinian officials warned that Israel’s military strikes would only inflame tensions.
“The Israeli action is going to sabotage the efforts made by the Palestinian Authority to maintain calm and revive the peace process,” said Tawfik Abu Khoussa, spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry.
While the violence continues, Israel has received no pressure to resume talks of creating transportation convoys that were intended to allow Palestinians to shuttle to and from the West Bank and Gaza. With this and the closing of the Jerusalem-West Bank checkpoint where the IDF soldier was stabbed to death, Palestinians have complained that the inability to move from place to place as a result was a collective punishment for Palestinians rather than a security measure, as Israel claimed. The intercept and detention of the suicide bomber at the West Bank checkpoint today clearly illustrates the security increased acute risk the border crossings currently pose.