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Hamas arrests Gaza rocket cell
Islamist group detains gunmen from Fatah military wing who fired Qassams into Israel on Thursday, further endangering volatile ceasefire. Meanwhile Fatah lashes out at Israel, with Abbas saying talks may be suspended over settlement building

Hamas arrested three Palestinians who fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Thursday, in the first such detentions since the Islamist group and Israel agreed a truce last month, a militant faction said.

 

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group linked to President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah group, said Hamas men pursued two of its members after the attack and "abducted them" in Jabalya refugee camp.

 

Two Qassam rockets were fired from northern Gaza towards Israel on Thursday afternoon, one of them landed near a kibbutz in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council.

 

No injuries were reported and no damage was caused.

 

"We demand their immediate release," said Abu Qusai, a brigades spokesman.

 

"The firing (of rockets) endangers the ceasefire. This is an attempt to disrupt the truce and not a response to Israeli actions," Hamas officials said.

 

The group issued a call to the Palestinian organizations to confine responses to incidents in the West Bank to the region, and not retaliate from Gaza.

 

Hamas had previously said it would not use force against those who violate the truce.

 

Al-Aqsa said it launched the rockets in response to an incident earlier on Thursday in which a Palestinian man belonging to the organization was killed by the IDF on the Gaza border.

 

The army said that at around 4:00 am soldiers manning an observation post spotted a suspicious figure advancing towards the security fence near the Kissufim crossing on the Gaza border. Infantry troops who were alerted to the scene called for the man to halt and fired warning shots in the air.

 

However the man continued to advance towards the Israeli side of the border, at which point the soldiers fired in the air once more and then aimed at the suspect's lower body; when he did not stop the soldiers resumed their fire and killed him. The army said no weapons were found on his person.

 

PA may suspend talks over settlements

Meanwhile on Thursday, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on Palestinians to defy the IDF's orders to shut down a major commercial centre in Nablus.

 

In a striking intervention in an affair that Israel says is aimed at disrupting funding for Fayyad's Islamist opponents in Hamas, the Western-backed premier visited the modern complex which rises above the centre of the West Bank city and urged businesses to reopen there despite an Israeli raid on Tuesday.

 

"Shopkeepers are invited to open their stores and ignore the Israeli decision," Fayyad said, after soldiers who searched the building ordered it closed on the grounds its owners had passed funds to Hamas. "The Israeli army orders and decisions are not valid ... We will deal with them as if they don't exist."

 

Earlier, Fayyad visited the town of Naalin, which Israeli troops sealed off and placed under curfew for several days this week after protests against the security fence grew increasingly violent.

 

Fayyad praised the protests: "Peaceful, popular action in defense of our land is a legitimate right to thwart plans to confiscate land for building walls and settlements."

 

An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the PA president was so irate over the settlement

building that an aide said he is considering suspending the peace talks.

 

"The Palestinian leadership views gravely the continuing settlement expansion ... and is considering suspending peace talks with Israel ," Yasser Abed Rabbo said.

 

Abbas visits Paris on Sunday, as does Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, for a meeting of European and Mediterranean leaders: "The president will inform the international community and Olmert in Paris of his decision," Abed Rabbo said.

 

Reuters contributed to this report

 


פרסום ראשון: 07.10.08, 19:56
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