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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.

Feedback

I don't actually view this as bad news. During this "truce" - which Hamas has violated from time to time, based on "self-defense" from Israeli actions - Hamas has repeatedly made clear that the truce was temporary, that there would be no permanent extension. This has given Israel a little breather, but it has given Hamas a period to incubate in Gaza and further develop its social and political base, while openly maintaining arms.

This is slightly mitigated by the fact that the Palestinian Authority has been making efforts to stop attacks, but only slightly, since the Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has been involved in a good number of the attacks.

I think it should also be noted that one of Abbas' most oft-repeated demands has been the release of Palestinian prisoners currently help by Israel. Since many of these "prisoners" were Hamas members, it made sense for them to declare a truce for a while in hopes of getting some of their people back. I say good riddance to this truce. Now we'll see what the PA is really made of.

In the same sense that I view Ahmadinejad's rise to power good insofar as it removes the veil that too many could never see past, I agree that the end of the truce is - in that sense - a good thing.

While Abbas may have made repeated calls for the release of prisoners, that the majority of the prisoners are Hamas members (equally proportionate their majority status in the Palestinian territories), it is clear that Abbas has had no short term gains from any release of his internal rivals.

In line with that is the fact that very few of the arrests Abbas' PA has made have been from Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

It should also be noted that, during relative quiet period of the 'truce', PIJ has been the primary attacker. Nearly every suicide bombing in the timeframe since has been the primarily-Iranian-supported PIJ. Iran has no interest in any quiet in Israel, let alone a 'truce'.

Following that logic, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Sharon saw the withdrawal from Gaza as moral high ground, knowing that Hamas, PIJ, et al would use it to gather and strengthen for more attacks rather than accept the land as finally unoccupied as they had always demanded...surely they are doing with it precisely as they wished.

Gaza and the West Bank will never be enough for groups like these, and that is unfortunate for the rest of the Palestinians.

"From the River to the Sea."

'"From the River to the Sea.'"

As I remember, the guy who made that statement famous is currently on trial in Iraq.

I agree as to Iran. Ahmadinejad has removed the veil, except for those who are security blind, such as you noted in a separate post on El Baredei.

I agree that each Palestinian faction is acting in accordance with its long-term interest (or that of its sponsor) rather than any genuine plan to bring about progress. Many of the AMB are not only not being arrested, as you note, but they are being integrated into the PA's security force. That may say something about the future of any Fatah-dominated PA.

In re to Sharon, there is also a more cynical theory that he adopted the Gaza withdrawal, against which he had previously campaigned, because of the fraud prosecutions heating up against himself and his sons. I don't know if that's true, but the timeline matches (as I remember, he changed his position the same month that the investigations opened). Given Sharon's history, it is actually quite shocking the turn he has made. He has gone from being, in my view, too hardline, to not being hardline enough. I supported the Gaza withdrawal initially, and still do in principle, but around July I changed my mind after concluding that it would lead to the founding of a terrorist state in Gaza. I believe there should have been more security guarantees set down. Within one week of the Rafah crossing opening a dozen or so Hamas operatives slipped in from Egypt. While it is too early to say for sure whether or not my prediction/fear about Gaza becoming a terror state will prove true, right now I would give it about a 60% chance.