In a growing barrage of Israeli pressure against Hamas, a senior military
commander said Israel is actively preparing to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and a
powerful lawmaker said the entire Palestinian Cabinet could be targeted for
assassination after the appointment of a wanted militant to head a new security
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud
Zahar, talks to reporters in Damascus on Thursday, April 20, 2006. Zahar,
who arrived in Damascus earlier in the day, met with Syrian President
Bashar Assad and Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa. His visit is part of an
Arab tour to raise funds for his cash-strapped government. Hamas officials
have been flying around the Middle East to ask for aid to compensate for
the U.S. and European Union's decisions to cut off funds to the
Palestinian Authority because of the militant group's refusal to renounce
violence and recognize Israel. [AP]
Officials said there were no immediate plans to strike at the Hamas-led
government. But the comments reflected rising Israeli impatience with the
Islamic militant group, which has refused to renounce violence, defended a
suicide bombing in Tel Aviv this week and failed to halt militant rocket fire
from the Gaza Strip.
"If the price we have to pay becomes unreasonable as a result of increased
attacks, then we shall have to take all steps, including occupying the Gaza
Strip," Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, head of Israel's southern command, told the
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Turkey's state-run news agency
Friday that reoccupation of the Gaza Strip would be a "deadly mistake."
Israel withdrew from Gaza last summer, ending 38 years of military
occupation. Since the pullout, militants have fired rockets into southern Israel
on a nearly daily basis.
Tensions were further heightened on Thursday when Hamas said it was forming a
new security force commanded by Jamal Abu Samhadana, who heads a group
responsible for many of the rocket attacks and is a suspect in a deadly attack
on an American convoy.
Israeli lawmaker Danny Yatom, a retired head of the Mossad spy agency, said
that not only Samhadana but the entire Hamas Cabinet is now a legitimate target
"I understand that our sights are also trained on Hamas ministers, not only
on the police chief," Yatom told Israel Radio. "Nobody who deals with terror can
have immunity by any means, even if he holds a ministerial portfolio in the
Yatom, a member of the center-left Labor Party, did not name any particular
minister as a potential target.
During five years of fighting, Israel has killed dozens of militants in
"targeted killings." Samhadana is high on Israel's wanted list and has been the
target of at least one attempted Israeli assassination.
"We have old scores to settle with this murderer," Israeli Cabinet minister
Zeev Boim told Israel Radio. "He has no immunity and we will have to settle this
score sooner or later."