Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin rejected a new US-backed "roadmap" plan for Palestinian-Israeli peace on Wednesday and vowed no respite in attacks on Israel.
Sheikh Yassin holds out little hope for any
peace process that does not allow Palestinians
to return home
"The road map aims to assure security for Israel at the expense of the security of our people. It is a plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. We reject it," Sheikh Ahmad Yassin said in Gaza City.
The road map calls for a series of confidence-building measures, including a halt to Palestinian violence and a suspension of Jewish settlement building on occupied land - though no specific mention of curbing Israeli violence in Palestinian territories - to pave the way for a Palestinian state by 2005.
After months of delays, the international "roadmap" was finally presented to the Palestinian and Israeli premiers Wednesday.
Sheikh Yassin’s rejection comes a day after two Palestinians were shot dead and others wounded when Israeli forces opened fire near a school in the village of Beni Zayd, in the west of Ramallah.
Another Palestinian, 17-year-old Mussab Djaber, was also shot dead yesterday by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Jenin.
Later in the day, a Palestinian human bomber killed three Israelis in a Tel Aviv pub, just hours after the Palestinian parliament had approved a new cabinet headed by prime minister Mahmoud Abbas. The new prime minister, whose appointment was a key precondition of the international quartet that drew the road map, has pledged to stamp out what he called illegal armed movements.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by both Hamas and an offshoot of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction. "Our resistance is continuing and it will continue and no one will stop it. We should not drop our weapons before we get our rights," said Yassin, 65, a popular wheelchair-bound cleric.
Yassin said the road map was humiliating to Palestinians. "Palestinians would be required to end their struggle and disarm themselves and then Israel would be free to give or not to give, to negotiate or not to negotiate," said Yassin, whose movement rejects a "two-state" solution to the conflict.
Opposition to Palestinian statehood is strong within Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's right-wing coalition and it has objected to the timing and sequence of steps in the road map.
"We will pursue resistance and self-defence until the removal of the occupation and settlements from our land, and until our people return," Yassin said.
"Why didn't (Israel) give our people a chance? Why have they not withdrawn and given us a chance to live on our land?"
Hamas heads the opposition to Arafat's Palestinian Authority, set up under interim peace accords a decade ago and which granted Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of Gaza and the West Bank.