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Militants re-arm under cover of Israel truce (SCOTSMAN.COM) ROSS DUNN IN GAZA CITY 08/10/03) Source: http://www.news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?id=872692003
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THE head of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip has admitted the militant group is using an ongoing truce with the Israeli military to re-arm, heightening fears of an explosion of bloodshed when the ceasefire comes to an end next month.
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In an exclusive interview with Scotland on Sunday, Mohammed al-Hindi warned that militant Palestinian groups are preparing for confrontations in the wake of Israeli military operations that could even lead to the collapse of the fragile truce ahead of next monthís deadline.
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Al-Hindi said: "It is natural that we strengthen ourselves during hudna [the three-month ceasefire declared by Palestinian groups in June]."
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The Islamic Jihad leader was responding to Israeli accusations that his group, which has carried out numerous suicide bombings and other attacks, is using the lull in hostilities to gather weapons and re- build its armed wing.
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And he said that other groups, including Palestinian President Yasser Arafatís Fatah faction and Hamas, should follow Islamic Jihadís example.
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"It is natural that the Palestinians, Fatah, the Islamic Jihad, Hamas, be ready to defend their people in the coming stages," he added.
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Asked what happens next, al-Hindi predicted more bloodshed if Israel fails to make additional concessions to the Palestinians.
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He said: "We are not blood lovers, we are freedom lovers, but when our people are being killed, we have to defend ourselves.
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"As long as Israel does not recognise the rights of the Palestinian people, there will be more violence and more violence and Israel will be the one to be blamed and to take responsibility."
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Al-Hindi said that since the Palestinian groups had declared a truce, more than 12 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli soldiers, some 350 Palestinians had been arrested, and areas of the West Bank had been "confiscated" for the building of Israelís security fence. As a result it was against the interests of Palestinian people to talk about extending the truce.
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His warning came as more signs emerged of an upsurge in violence after period of relative calm.
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On Friday, the Israeli army killed a Hamas activist during an operation in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus. An Israeli soldier was also killed during the raid.
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Following the killings, a Hamas spokesman warned that his organisation was no longer obliged to adhere to the ceasefire.
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The threats emerged as the Israeli Defence Minister, Shaul Mofaz, issued his own warning.
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He told the Jerusalem Post newspaper that the Palestinian Authority must take action against groups such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas before the end of September, when the ceasefire or hudna is due to expire.
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If not, he said, then Israel would be forced to reassess its relations with the Palestinian leadership.
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He said: "We will have to tell the Palestinian Authority: ĎEither you are going to take care of this or we are going to take care of this.í" (©2003 scotsman.com 08/10/03)
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