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Conflict Deepens Despite Palestinian Talks

Violence continues in Gaza amid announcements of truce talks between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah. Incidents between the two factions throughout Gaza continued yesterday, including the killing of Fatah’s Nabil Hodhod, the head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Service.

Hodhod died in his car in a grenade attack. As his body was brought to the hospital, Fatah gunmen fired from hospital balconies at Hamas members on the street below.

But while the talks between the two have started, Abbas set a 10-day deadline for Hamas to agree to some sort of terms regarding dealings with Israel. The reaction from Hamas to Abbas’ statement was mixed and whether the strategy nets results or deeper conflict remains to be seen.

From the Israeli side, Prime Minister Olmert restated the deadline for the end of this year for a Palestinian agreement, saying, “We cannot wait for the Palestinians forever.” The Prime Minister was addressing a joint session of the US Congress during his visit to the United States.

Hamas’ initial reaction to the Israeli Prime Minister’s deadline was one of flat rejection. Hamas’ political bureau head, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said frankly, “Hamas has not and will not negotiate,” calling the terms “mere justifications for a certain political path that the Israelis want to implement and impose on the Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, from Egypt, Arutz Sheva reports more information on the al-Qaeda/Gaza links to the Sinai bombings in Egypt and the apparent establishment of an al-Qaeda foothold in Gaza, Jordan and the Sinai.

Furthermore, an Egyptian authority on fundamentalist Islam, Abd el-Rahman Alian, told the Al-Arabiya television station that Al-Qaeda is working towards a three-point organizational structure, encompassing Amman, Gaza and Sinai, under the command of Iraq-based leadership. Alian said that Hamas rebels have joined the Egyptian-based Tawhid terror group and Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

This is another indication of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s shift from the Iraqi theater to the rest of the region, inching closer to Israel.

There is little good news coming from the Palestinian Territories, whether al-Qaeda links within Gaza, open street fighting between Hamas & Fatah or Israel’s resignation to pursue a unilateral plan of disengagement from the West Bank amid the PA’s bloody internal conflict. There will be much reporting of press conferences and statements by both Hamas and Fatah regarding resolution and ending the conflict. The direction of the internal Palestinian conflict, however, will be told by actions on the street regardless of genuine intentions (or not) of either faction’s leadership.