GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Qatar's attempt to end a growing crisis in the
Palestinian territories appeared to end in failure Tuesday after Hamas rejected
the plan's key demands that it recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad
bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, left, and Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, talk to the media after their
meeting at Abbas's office in Gaza City, early Tuesday Oct. 10, 2006. Sheik
Hamad bin Jassem al Thani began meetings late Monday with Palestinian
leaders, hoping to promote a unity government that would lead to the
restoration of vital Western aid to the West Bank and Gaza. The visiting
mediator also met with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Fatah faulted Hamas for the breakdown in negotiations, the latest setback to
international efforts to establish a unity government and restore much-needed
aid to the Palestinians.
However, Palestinian Information Minister Youssef Rizka of Hamas said the
U.S. was to blame for dismissing a separate Palestinian plan that would
establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank but not explicitly recognize
Israel. The document has been a basis for Hamas-Fatah talks.
Qatar's foreign minister presented his country's six-point plan Monday in
separate meetings with President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister
Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. The foreign minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al Thani,
said afterward there was still no agreement on the issue of recognizing Israel.
He left the Palestinian territories early Tuesday.
Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led government, said his group was not
ready to recognize Israel or give up its armed struggle against Israel.
"We differentiate between resistance and terrorism," he said.
Still, he said, Hamas is ready to continue the negotiations: "The way is not
Mohammed Nazal, a member of Hamas' exiled Syria-based leadership, said later
that Hamas only asked for amendments to the Qatari proposal, but did not reject
Nazal accused Abbas of waging "a war of elimination" on Hamas, which holds
top positions in the Palestinian government and a majority in parliament.
"They are not after moderating us - it is about wiping us out. It is a war of
elimination," Nazal told The Associated Press. He spoke by telephone from
another Arab country, but would not specify where.
Israel kept up its pressure on militants overnight, with an airstrike on the
Gaza home of a Hamas legislator, Mariam Frahat. Palestinian security officials
said the house was unoccupied at the time of the attack, in the early hours of
Wednesday, and no casualties were reported.
The army said aircraft hit an uninhabited building in which arms were stored.
On Tuesday night, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a vehicle near the
Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, Palestinians said, wounding a gunman.
The military said only that it struck at a militant.
Earlier Tuesday Israeli forces shot and killed an armed Palestinian near the
border fence in Gaza, the military and Palestinians said.
Israel and Western donor nations cut off hundreds of millions of dollars to
the Palestinian Authority after Hamas won parliamentary elections in January and
formed a new government.
The international community wants Hamas to renounce violence, recognize
Israel and accept past peace agreements. Hamas refuses to accept the conditions,
despite widespread economic hardship caused by the international sanctions.
An Israeli military offensive in Gaza, launched after Hamas-linked militants
tunneled under the border and captured an Israeli soldier in June, has added to
the misery. The soldier remains in captivity.
Abbas, a moderate, has been pushing Hamas to form a coalition government,
based on the international demands, as a way out of the crisis. Negotiations
have been going on for weeks, but without results. The rising tensions led to
infighting that killed 12 people last week.
Nabil Amr, a top aide to Abbas in the West Bank, praised the efforts of Qatar
and accused Hamas of stalling. "We regret the failure of this initiative," he
said. "They are buying time and time is of the essence for us."
Amr said the president is weighing other options for resolving the standoff,
including replacing the Hamas-dominated Cabinet with a government of apolitical
technocrats or taking steps to hold early elections.
"I don't think there is room for any more international initiatives," he
Qatar had emerged as a possible mediator in the standoff between Israel and
Hamas. The tiny Gulf state has low-level relations with Israel and good
relations with Hamas' exiled leadership in Syria.
Meanwhile, Hamas claimed it had fired a homemade rocket at Israeli troops in
northern Gaza. The army said militants fired an anti-tank missile at troops,
causing no injury or damage.
"Resistance is the only way to deter (Israel's) aggression," Hamas said in a
statement. "Seeking flexibility, dialogue and negotiations will not do any