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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reality versus peace talks: Qassams versus dialogue

Are peace talks going to be conducted isolated from the reality of Qassam rockets and other unpleasant aspects of Israeli-Palestinian relations?

Ami Isseroff

Man wounded by Kassam shortly before Olmert-Abbas J'lem meeting

One person sustained moderate shrapnel wounds to his eye and leg and several bystanders suffered from shock when a Kassam rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip hit a Sderot home on Tuesday.

According to Army Radio, the Kassam hit a bathroom shortly after it was vacated.

Eli Sabag told Army Radio that his family was narrowly missed by the rocket. "I just sat down to drink a cup of coffee when I heard the warning siren. My wife and my son and I went into the Mamad [protected area] and waited for the Kassam to hit. When we opened the door, we saw a smoke mushroom, and we understood that it fell in our house."

The attack came just before a meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who were meeting in Jerusalem midday Tuesday. While the two were accompanied by their respective entourages, Israel Radio reported that most of the meeting would take place between Olmert and Abbas alone.

Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, an armed group linked to Fatah, claimed responsibility for the attack, adding in its statement that the rocket was an Aksa-3, an improved model of the Kassam.

Upon entering the prime minister's house Abbas paused to write a brief comment in the prime minister's guest book. "I am honored to meet with you in your home. I hope and wish that peace between us will move forward, and the two people will witness the peace that we wish to arrive at," he wrote.

But Abbas warned that a planned international peace conference would be a "waste of time" if it failed to address the core issues of Palestinian statehood - borders, refugees and Jerusalem.

Abbas pressed Israel to be more specific on how it plans to approach peace talks, saying Olmert's proposed "declaration of principles" would not suffice. US President George W. Bush has called for a Mideast peace conference, expected to take place in November, to advance a final Israeli-Palestinian accord.

"If there is a clear framework including final status issues, we will welcome this and go to the conference," Abbas told Voice of Palestine radio.

Olmert began the meeting by congratulating Abbas on the work of Palestinian security forces in Jenin, Monday. The PA forces extracted an IDF officer who lost his way and strayed in his car into the hostile Palestinian town.

Olmert also thanked Abbas for freezing the bank accounts of approximately a hundred charities associated with Hamas.

Earlier Tuesday, an article in the Arab daily Al Quds reported that Hamas has given Abbas a proposal on how to end the enmity between the group and Fatah.

Hamas and Fatah have been staunch enemies since Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip in June.

The report, quoted by Army Radio, said the offer was given to Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar in Gaza, and he transferred it to Abbas.

Abbas has yet to respond to the proposal.

Abbas's position since June has been to eschew any dialogue with Hamas until the Islamist group apologizes for taking over Gaza and returns the control of the Strip to the Palestinian Authority.

But Fathi Hamad, a Hamas senior in Gaza, said only moments after Abbas and Olmert began their meeting in Olmert's official residence in Rehavia that Abbas was "behaving as if he is working for Olmert, and by this, bringing his own end nearer."

The PA's chairman, on his side, issued a "calming message" to his people ahead of the meeting, saying that he would only be willing to discuss a Palestinian state if Olmert will offer him a final agreement, and would reject any temporary solution.

Abbas also said that while he was willing to conduct secret negotiations, any agreement reached secretly would have to pass the test of a referendum among the Palestinians in the West Bank and be approved by the PLO's Legislative Council.


In other news, Tuesday marks kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit's 21st birthday, his second in captivity.



Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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