View Full Version : Prospects For Peace Are Dim, Israeli Official Says

10-29-2005, 12:03 AM
Prospects for peace are dim, Israeli official says
Another Palestinian militant killed; Israeli defense minister pessimistic


Updated: 5:02 p.m. ET Oct. 28, 2005

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip - Missiles fired from an Israeli aircraft struck a car in this northern Gaza town Friday, killing a Palestinian militant and escalating the bloodletting that has dimmed the prospects for peacemaking following Israel’s pullout from the coastal strip.

Earlier in the day, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz issued a pessimistic outlook for reaching a peace deal with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, saying in published comments that Abbas was too weak to negotiate a permanent accord. Palestinians accused Mofaz of giving voice to an Israeli policy that favors occupation.

The Israeli military said its aircraft targeted the white Subaru in Beit Hanoun because the militants inside were on a mission to fire rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. No hits were reported in Sderot, but the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a group affiliated with Abbas’ governing Fatah party, said an Israeli drone targeted its members after the rockets were already fired.

An Al Aqsa spokesman, using the code name Abu Ahmed, said Israel would “pay a heavy price for this crime.”

The dead man was identified as Majid Natat, 28, of the Gaza town of Beit Lahia, frequently used for rocket launches against Israel.

A week of violence
A week of bloodshed began Monday when Israeli troops killed the top gunman from the Islamic Jihad militant group in the West Bank. An Islamic Jihad revenge suicide bombing Wednesday killed five Israelis in the central Israeli town of Hadera.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threatened a “broad and relentless” offensive against militants, including mass arrests and airstrikes, and declared he would not meet Abbas until the Palestinian leader took “serious and tangible action” to crack down on militants. The two men haven’t met since Israel’s Gaza pullout last month because of violent confrontations between the two sides.

On Thursday evening, in Gaza's Jebaliya refugee camp, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a car carrying four Islamic Jihad members, killing them and three bystanders. Hospital officials said 15 people were wounded.

Among those killed was Shadi Mohanna, Islamic Jihad's field commander for northern Gaza. Israel said Mohanna was responsible for rocket barrages on Israeli towns and for recruiting attackers.

About 20,000 mourners, among them hundreds of masked gunmen, turned out for the victims' funeral Friday, parading the bodies on stretchers from a mosque near Jebaliya. The gunmen, from both Islamic Jihad and Hamas, fired volleys in the air while women and children, some weeping, watched from balconies.

Late Thursday and early Friday, Israeli helicopters repeatedly fired missiles at northern Gaza, targeting militant rocket launch sites. In the West Bank, Israeli troops rounded up 12 Islamic Jihad activists.

Threats of revenge
“There will be a painful, immediate response” to the missile strike, said Khader Habib, a spokesman for the group. Late Thursday, Islamic Jihad said it fired rockets at Israel. However, witnesses said they landed inside Gaza and there were no reports of casualties.

On Friday morning, the Israeli army said a single rocket fired from Gaza fell on empty ground in southern Israel, causing no damage.

Israeli aircraft responded with missile attacks on three empty spots in northern Gaza previously used as rocket launch sites, the military said. Palestinian witnesses said nobody was hurt.

Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, has condemned the latest suicide bombing, but Israel said he must do much more. Sharon said Thursday he would not meet with Abbas unless he takes “serious and tangible action” against militants.

In his interview with the Yediot Ahronot daily, Mofaz launched a scathing attack on Abbas, saying he had become so ineffective and isolated from his people that he is not a partner for negotiating a peace deal with Israel.

‘No one to talk to’
“Abu Mazen is a one-man show,” Mofaz was quoted as saying. “Behind him, there is nothing, only emptiness. Governmental vacuum. In fact, there is no one to talk to. Abu Mazen and his colleagues in the Palestinian leadership ... have not done a thing so far. The Palestinian Authority is not an address for us.”

Mofaz said the best that could be expected was another round of interim agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I'm not at all sure that we can ever reach a peace agreement with the present Palestinian leadership,” Mofaz told the paper. “We shall have to wait for the next generation.”

While Israeli leaders have largely avoided personal criticism of Abbas, Mofaz's comments are in line with Sharon's preference for a long-term interim deal that would allow Israel to avoid dealing with explosive issues, such as the fate of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israel does have a partner for peace talks in the Palestinians. But he added Mofaz's statements showed Israeli contempt for Palestinian institutions, bred by years of occupation.

“I don’t think Israel’s problem is with this generation or that generation of Palestinians or this person or that person. Israel's problem is with the whole Palestinian people,” he said.

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