Hamas vows revenge against Israel

Palestinian resistance group Hamas has threatened to avenge a deadly weekend raid in the movement's Gaza stronghold with attacks inside Israel.

    Al-Zahar says Israeli occupation is the cause of the conflict

    In comments on Monday, the Islamic group's leader in Gaza, Mahmud al-Zahar, also poured cold water on calls for a ceasefire with Israel.

    "Aggression from Israel will be reacted by self-defence ...

    whether within the occupied territories or outside the Green Line," al-

    Zahar said.

    His comments came after 11 Palestinians were killed over the

    weekend during an Israeli raid into the Khan Yunus refugee camp in

    southern Gaza, the deadliest offensive since the death of

    Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

    Mahmud Abbas, Arafat's successor as Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) chairman, has been

    trying to persuade Hamas - responsible for most of the 

    anti-Israeli attacks during the course of the four-year intifada -

    to call a new ceasefire.

    Ceasefire calls

    But al-Zahar said that only a complete end to the Israeli

    occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a release of all

    8000 Palestinian prisoners would lead to such a move.

    "We have already declared our stand - it should be a bilateral

    stoppage. Israeli aggression first, the release of all Palestinian

    detainees, the opening of our borders, real withdrawals from our

    areas, not redeployment," he said.

    "We have already declared our stand - it should be a bilateral

    stoppage. Israeli aggression first, the release of all Palestinian

    detainees, the opening of our borders, real withdrawals from our

    areas, not redeployment"

    Mahmud al-Zahar,
    Hamas

    "The occupation is the cause. The elimination of the occupation

    will spontaneously stop this aggression."

    Al-Zahar was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on the Middle

    East where delegates appealed for an end to attacks on civilians.

    Alexander Kalugin, Russia's envoy to the region, said that it

    would be impossible to put pressure on Israel to tone down its

    activities as long as attacks against civilians continued.

    International pressure

    "We expect the Palestinians to agree on the kind of act that

    will preclude any terrorist act against Israeli civilians and we

    hope that Israel will respond positively to any agreement among the

    Palestinian factions," he said.

    Al-Zahar welcomed the prospect of international pressure on Israel

    which, if successful, could lead to a ceasefire from his group.

    Eleven Palestinians were killed in
    the Khan Yunus raid

    "If the neutral side, the quartet [sponsors of the road map peace

    plan] or others can convince the Israelis to fulfil our demands, I

    think we can reach an agreement."

    Al-Zahar also played down differences with Abbas who described the

    armed uprising last week as harmful to the Palestinian cause and

    called for a laying down of weapons.

    "We understand that in every community there are big differences

    between all people and factions, and we accept that," he said.

    "It is not a precondition for Abu Mazin [Abbas] to be Hamas or

    for Hamas to be PLO, so it is a matter of how to reconciliate and

    reach a final goal."

    SOURCE: AFP


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