Another one for Ma’an:
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israel is laying the political groundwork for an escalation of attacks on the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister in the Hamas-led government, said Wendesday.
“We can sense there is an upcoming Israeli escalation against the Palestinian people in general and the Gaza Strip in particular,” he told reporters at a rare news conference in Gaza City.
Haniyeh said Israel’s recent assassination of two members of the small Islamist faction Army of Islam were part of an attempt to drum up international support for renewed military operations against Gaza.
Israel said the assassinations were intended to preempt Army of Islam attacks, in connection with Al-Qaeda, on Israeli and American targets in the Sinai in Egypt. Haniyeh countered that there was no basis for these claims.
“We confirm that the purpose of this assassination and of those accusations is to deceive public opinion and to win an American endorsement for such an action” against Gaza, he said.
“There is no such thing as Al-Qaeda in the Gaza Strip. What is really in existence is the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation. The Palestinian resistance does not work outside the borders of Palestine.”
He added: “Through communication channels with the Palestinian resistance factions we as a government can confirm that the Palestinian resistance factions are not active outside Palestine’s boundaries.”
Haniyeh believes Israel is preparing to “wage a media campaign against the Gaza Strip. Under deceiving and illusory titles: terrorism, Al-Qaeda, white phosphorus bombs, anti-aircraft missiles, long-range missiles targeting the deepest points in Israel. This coincides with the complaint submitted by Israel to the UN council.”
“This is purely made up. This is all lies,” he said.
Israel waged a three-week war on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 that killed some 1,400 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis also died.
Haniyeh also commented on the US diplomatic cables made public this week by the whistleblower group WikiLeaks, which he said “showed us that this area is on top of a whole ocean of conspiracies.”
He noted a document in which Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is quoted claiming Israel consulted the Palestinian Authority and Egypt before the winter war on Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas has denied that any such consultation took place.
“If this information is proven correct,” Haniyeh said, “it would be a national catastrophe that would take a lot of contemplation. In the whole of history there was no one revolution that moved from the line of resisting the enemy to the line of supporting the enemy and coordinating with him.”
Haniyeh added that the WikiLeaks documents confirmed Hamas’ claims that “Palestinian reconciliation is on hold because of an American decision.
“We ask the Americans to stop their intervention in the Palestinian reconciliation file so that the Palestinian people can bring an end to this division and retrieve Palestinian unity,” he said.
‘Hamas would accept ’67 borders’
Haniyeh also reiterated that Hamas would accept the creation of a Palestinian state in in the West Bank and Gaza.
“We don’t have a problem with establishing a viable Palestinian state with sovereignty on the land that was occupied in 1967, with a just solution for the refugees, including the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and with elections as the only way to transfer authority from one party to another.”
Haniyeh said that his government’s program was the same as that laid out in the 2007 Mecca agreement that established the Hamas-Fatah unity government.
Referring to the unity platform, he said: “These respective documents granted President Abbas and the PLO full control over the negotiations, allowing them to come back with the results if there are any, to call for a referendum, to call on the Palestinian people if they agree with what has been achieved in the negotiations and the establishment of a state.”
“Hamas and the Palestinian government would respect the results of any referendum.”