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Monday, July 03, 2006

Palestine Faces Dissolution as Terror Group Cuts Off Comunication

Palestinian PM's plea on brink of war
Martin Chulov, Gaza

PALESTINIAN Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has pleaded for the world to help stop the slide towards war in the Holy Land as the deadline expired for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel tightened its grip on Gaza yesterday, pounding the northern strip with artillery shells and destroying Mr Haniyeh's city offices in an early-morning bombing raid ahead of a full-scale invasion of the Palestinian territory that a cabinet meeting was expected to authorise last night.

Before the meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continued his uncompromising stance in the face of Palestinian and Egyptian attempts to broker a peace deal, which included the release of prisoners in return for Corporal Shalit's freedom.

Arab media last night reported that the deal involved the release of prisoners who had served more than 20 years in Israeli jails.

"We have no intention of capitulating to any kind of extortion," Mr Olmert said.

"Capitulation means inviting the next act of terror.

--> I fail to see his point. Even now he is inviting the next act of terror, by his own logic. I fail to see how he has achieved his objectives. In this respect, he has failed, so what are the grounds for his statement? Without some proof to offer, I don't see how he can be taken seriously. And in his position, I would think he would want to be taken seriously.

"I instructed the Israel Defence Forces and the security establishment to hurt anyone who bears responsibility for acts of terror.

"No one will get away. Gilad is being held by a bloodthirsty gang, which is also hurting the Palestinian population."

Earlier, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had demanded the Hamas-led Government of Mr Haniyeh respond to a deadline he had set for midday, Gaza time, to free Corporal Shalit in return for Israeli promises to release prisoners at a later point.

Mr Haniyeh, a marked man since an Israeli death threat against him last Friday, privately urged Hamas militants to hand over the captive they have held since seizing him during a daring tunnel incursion into Israel on June 25.

He described the destruction of his office as "a policy of jungle arrogance" and later released a statement, after consulting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which urged the world to stop the Israeli offensive.

--> I am also surprised that the Israel PM has not considered that the terror group holding the captive Israeli may hold no interest in seeing the current Palestinian government persist. They may have visions people like themselves seizing power after Hamas. If I were the Israel PM, I would consider the negotiating power that Hamas may be able to bring to this situation, with their backs to the wall. Israel is not rationalizing what it has in common with the Palestinian cabinet. While he should hold them responsible, he should consider what they have to lose , as well.

"The international community must shoulder its responsibility," he said.

Israel is holding Mr Haniyeh responsible for the kidnapping as elected head of the Palestinian people. But security officials in the Palestinian Authority insist he had no knowledge of the operation and are instead pointing to the Damascus-based head of the Hamas politburo, Khalid Meshaal, as a likely instigator.

Mr Haniyeh claims the Israeli offensive was a premeditated plan to bring down his Government.

The arrest of up to 32 Hamas legislators, including eight cabinet ministers, in the West Bank last week removed what little authority he retained after a five-month blockade. The office of the Gaza-based Interior Minister was also destroyed in an Israeli air raid last week.

Israeli analysts have speculated the Hamas MPs could be used as a bargaining chip to free Corporal Shalit, who Palestinian officials say was visited by a doctor last week and is in good health.

Mr Abbas, who has been prevented from leaving Gaza, has blamed factional fighting for the delay in Corporal Shalit's release, saying he remained hopeful of a diplomatic outcome.

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz ordered the temporary re-opening of the Karni goods crossing into Gaza to allow the delivery of 150 trucks of aid relief,

as world pressure mounted to ease a feared humanitarian crisis.

The trucks slowly entered the restive strip under an arc of renewed shell fire into the north, which was pounded for the sixth consecutive day by artillery.

Jerusalem officials also authorised Israeli power companies to increase the supply of electricity into Gaza after jet fighters bombed the main transformers on Tuesday night, cutting power to almost 70 per cent of the strip.

Condemnation of the Israeli operation, dubbed "Summer Rains", mounted in Muslim nations, with pro-Palestinian rallies in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, as well as Jordan, Morocco and Algeria.

Both the UN and US have said Israel has a right to defend itself, but have urged Mr Olmert to prevent the conflict from descending into outright war.

Canberra has strongly backed the Israeli operation and condemned the killing by West Bank militants last week of a second kidnap victim, Eliyahu Asheri, the son of an Australian-born convert to Judaism.

Up to 200 tanks have taken positions in northern and eastern Gaza, while several columns more remain confined to the abandoned airport in the south of the strip.


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