Israeli, Palestinian hardliners pledge doom for peace process
Attacks by Hamas' armed wing will continue "in any form and in any place,” including inside Israel, a spokesman said Sept. 2. The organization's al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for killing four settlers in a drive-by shooting at the Beit Hagai settlement near Hebron two nights before, and for injuring two Israelis in a similar attack at Romodin Junction near Ramallah the following day. Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida said the second attack was "a slap in the face" for those who said the deadly shooting near Hebron would not be repeated.
The shootings were condemned by Palestinian Authority officials, while several Israeli leaders, including President Shimon Peres, said the country must continue negotiations with "those who denounce terror."
Following the Beit Hagai shooting, Palestinian Authority security forces launched an arrest campaign in Hebron. At a press conference in Gaza on Sept. 2, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri accused the PA of arresting 550 of the Islamist movement's affiliates. At the same press conference, Hamas leader Fawzi Barhoum said the success of the two attacks demonstrated that "any gambling on eliminating resistance will lose."
The attack in Ramallah came as US President Barack Obama welcomed President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, DC, a day ahead of the first session of direct peace negotiations in 20 months. Speaking after the Hebron attack, Obama said the "senseless slaughter" would not derail peace talks.
Responding to Obama's message, Abu Obeida said "Al-Qassam does not gamble on the stances of the United States."
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, meanwhile said that Hamas will block any agreement in the peace talks. Writing in the Shas newsletter, Yishai predicted that if Israel makes "painful sacrifices" to reach an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other terrorist groups will resume attacks, the Jerusalem Post reported.
"We must stand up for our principles and never give up on them: Stop terror, recognize Israel as a Jewish state, stop provoking violence, and start negotiations without conditions. Certainly not the condition of a building freeze," he said. Shas has opposed any freeze in construction in settlements on the West Bank. (Ma'an News Agency, Jerusalem Post, UPI, Sept. 2)