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Hamas Sends Unity Gov't 'Back to Zero'

After Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said at the United Nations that a Palestinian ‘Unity Government’ to be forged between Hamas and Fatah would recognize both Israel and existing agreements between the Jewish state and the PLO, Hamas was quick to correct Abbas and declared that it absolutely would not recognize Israel. This embarrassment has caused Mahmoud Abbas to declare that any prospect of a ‘Unity Government’ was “back to zero.”

But Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Saturday that any such ‘Unity Government’ is unnecessary to begin peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. He asserted that it is not a matter of government organization or formation, but rather simply the recognition of the state of Israel by the terrorist group Hamas. Said Peretz, “What difference does it make what the government is called? If Hamas were to recognize Israel’s right to exist, I would recommend direct talks with Hamas.”

This precondition appears untenable as Hamas’ PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared bluntly Friday that he would not serve at the head of any government that recognizes Israel. Haniyeh declared at mosque services, “The government and the Hamas movement will be against recognizing Israel. Our position to solve the crisis is a 10-year truce which will be good for stability and prosperity.” The call for a 10-year truce (hudna) dates back to the day Hamas claimed their electoral victory as the majority within the Palestinian parliament.

Elsewhere, Israel has allowed the opening of the Rafah crossing on the Gaza border with Egypt ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. How long it will remain open is unclear and appears to be a day-to-day decision.

While the Rafah crossing was opened to the transit of people and goods, the Israeli Air Force carried out a double airstrike on a Gaza home along the Egyptian border. The home was owned by a suspected weapons dealer, which was used as an entry/exit point for tunnels into Egypt dug beneath the border.

Catholic churches continue to be attacked in both the West Bank and Gaza, as attacks with assault rifles, small pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails are becoming commonplace. In Nablus, Palestinian police who stood guard outside a Roman Catholic church fended off one attack, as heavy machinegun fire was reported after midnight.

Elsewhere along the Gaza and West Bank borders with Israel, the IDF has closed all crossings since Friday after unspecified intelligence of terrorist threats during the Jewish Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) holiday. The Israeli border closures are expected to last until the end of Sunday.