James Hider
The Times
October 12, 2007 - 2:04pm

Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, took a significant step towards reconciliation with the Palestinian President yesterday, saying that its rule of the tiny coastal territory was only “temporary”.

Until now, Hamas had refused to bow to demands by the mainstream Fatah-led Government, which it drove by force from Gaza in June but which has international backing. However, Ismail Haniya, who was the Palestinian Prime Minister before this year’s factional split, told fellow Hamas worshippers in Gaza: “Our administration of Gaza is temporary.” He also said that reconciliation talks with Fatah would resume after the weekend feast marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Fatah has said that it, too, is ready to hold talks, but only if Hamas gives up power in Gaza and recognises the authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President and Fatah leader.

The announcement came after a closure of Gaza’s border by both Israel and Egypt effectively wiped out the economy of the territory. Israel has also launched frequent military incursions against Islamist groups firing rockets into its towns. The latest Israeli raid wounded five Palestinian militants yesterday. A senior Israeli general cautioned that a big operation to take on the Islamist guerrillas — who are widely suspected of receiving backing from Iran — was inevitable.

“We cannot stand idly by as Hamas rearms in the strip and as the rocket fire continues,” said Major General Moshe Kaplinsky. “In order to dismantle the terror infrastructure, systematic treatment is necessary. A ground operation is a question of timing.”

Hamas faces not only the threat of a full-scale Israeli onslaught, but is increasingly suffering bomb and gunfire attacks from Palestinian groups that it says are linked to Fatah.

Last week three Fatah militants were killed when their car exploded near a Hamas security base in Gaza City. It was believed that their car bomb exploded prematurely.

Ihad Ghusain, a spokesman for the Gaza interior ministry, said that some of those arrested had confessed to receiving orders and pay from senior officials in Mr Abbas’s entourage. The attacks started three weeks ago.


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