Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The Hamas thing is starting to get old. After crying for help for five days during an Israeli incursion aimed at stopping rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Hamas declared victory Monday after Israel pulled its troops out. The withdrawal came just ahead of the start of a two-day visit by U.S. Secretary Condoleezza Rice to encourage Palestinian and Israeli negotiators working on a long-term peace deal. Negotiators had reportedly been making very slow progress before the Palestinian Authority pulled out of the talks to protest the incursion, which killed more than 100. Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since June, when its gunmen defeated forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who now controls only the West Bank. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and is committed to its destruction, making any kind of settlement impossible or at least unlikely. "The blood of Gaza's children has achieved victory and occupation will be removed," Hamas's Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would re-enter Gaza should rocket attacks continue. "We are not willing to show tolerance — period," Olmert said. But a senior Israeli official told the Reuters international news service that there would be a two-day suspension of the incursion during Rice's visit. Israel has been under international pressure to stop further violence. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki called for a international peacekeeping force in Gaza and the West Bank, which Hamas opposes.