Palestinians fire five mortar shells at Gaza settlements (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel, Arnon Regular and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and Agencies 02/01/05 19:59 (GMT+2)
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Palestinians continued firing mortar shells at Gaza Strip
settlements Tuesday. Two people suffered from shock after five
shells hit settlements and damaged several vehicles.
The mortar fire came on top of attacks Monday, in which militants
fired seven mortar shells at Gaza settlements, causing heavy damage
to a building. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which it
said was in retaliation for the death of a 10-year-old school girl
in the Rafah refugee camp earlier on Monday.
The Israel Defense Forces said the girl was likely shot by
Palestinian pilgrims´ shooting into the air upon returning from the
Hajj, but Hamas said she was shot dead by IDF fire.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian police "will
exert every possible effort to stop such firing."
But Hamas threatened further retaliation "if the crimes continue."
The military took that to mean the militant group was trying to set
a pattern of retaliation for perceived Israeli acts of violence,
within the framework of a cease-fire, security officials said.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Palestinian Authority adviser
Mohammed Dahlan during a meeting Monday night that such an
understanding was unacceptable.
Monday´s mortar fire in Gaza also compelled Mofaz to demand that the
PA take more aggressive action against the terrorist infrastructure
Palestinian militant groups warned in a statement they would resume
attacks against Israel in light of what they consider to be an
ongoing policy of incursions by the Israel Defense Forces into
Palestinian territory, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.
The statement was issued jointly by eight groups, including the Al-
Aqsa Martyrs´ Brigades, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine.
IDF Intelligence: Hamas part of ´axis of evil´
The quiet in Gaza and the West Bank largely depends on the will of
Hamas leaders, who form part of a regional "axis of evil" that
opposes regional calm, the head of Military Intelligence said
"Everything can cause a break in the calm," Major General Aharon
Ze´evi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Ze´evi said Abbas had agreed to let Hamas leaders hold onto their
weapons during cease-fire talks, adding that Hamas and Hezbollah are
working together to dash any such halt of attacks.
"The axis of evil - which includes the Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaida
organizations supported by Iran - adamantly opposes calm, and Hamas
and Hezbollah are working together to destroy the cease-fire," he
Ze´evi added that Palestinians were talking only about
establishing "calm," rather than a more stable cease-fire or hudna
Israel reopens Rafah crossing
Thousands of Palestinians passed through the Rafah crossing on
Tuesday, which Israel reopened in the morning after Defense Minister
Shaul Mofaz agreed to a Palestinian Authority request to reopen the
border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
The Rafah crossing is the main gateway in and out of the Gaza Strip
for Palestinian travelers. It was closed since December 12, the day
of a Palestinian attack that killed several Israeli soldiers at a
In his meeting with Mofaz, Dahlan - considered one of PA Chairman
Mahmoud Abbas´ closest advisers - demanded the immediate opening of
the Erez, Karni and Rafah crossings surrounding Gaza.
Mofaz agreed to reopen the Erez and Rafah crossings, but Israel is
not prepared to reopen the Karni crossing, where a terror attack
killed six Israelis last month, until it receives a detailed
security plan from the Palestinians. Israeli and Palestinian
officers met Monday to discuss security at Karni.
Mofaz also told Dahlan during the meeting that there would be no
transfer of West Bank cities to the Palestinian Authority without a
total cessation of mortar fire into the settlements of Gush Katif -
a position to which Palestinians objected Tuesday.
The meeting focused on the transfer of five West Bank cities -
Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, Tul Karm and Qalqilyah - to the
Palestinians as early as this week. Jericho is likely to be the
first city to be transferred.
Palestinians objected to the new Israeli position on the West Bank
"We will not tell them to stop if they are withdrawing from
Ramallah, but we want them to implement the previous understandings,
the withdrawal from five cities," a senior Palestinian official said
Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. (© Copyright 2004
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