Israel spurns Hamas offer to halt bombing

PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

Israel yesterday rejected an offer by the Hamas Islamic militant organisation to call off its suicide bombing campaign in return for the release of its prisoners and immunity from revenge.

Ehud Barak, the Foreign Minister, said that Israel could not undercut Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority, which "must do the job". Hamas and Izzedine al-Qassim, its military wing, had issued a joint statement saying there would be no more attacks for a week while its offer is being considered.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman had given his own deadline for all unregistered weapons in the areas he controls to be handed over by last night. Otherwise his security forces would start searches for arms, threatening people who hold unregistered weapons with 15 years in prison.

"In general, Israel does not negotiate with the terror cells of Hamas," Mr Barak said. Earlier in the week Israel was reported to have said to Mr Arafat that if he would not deal with Hamas, it might open talks with the organisation.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, has also said that if Mr Arafat does not rein in extremists, Israel may delay the troop withdrawal in the West Bank town of Hebron due at the end of this month.

Mr Peres has warned that the Israeli closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, barring 60,000 Palestinian workers from reaching their jobs inside Israel, will stay in effect until the security situation improves.

The border closures, thought to be costing the Palestinian economy $4m (pounds 2.6m) a day in lost wages and exports, have caused a backlash against Hamas among Palestinians who have blamed the group for their financial hardships.

Israeli security services say that the orders to launch the suicide bomb attacks last Sunday, which killed 23 Israelis, were given by the Hamas leadership in Damascus. Izzedine al-Qassim in Gaza says it was not involved, which, if true, means that Hamas is split. This is precisely what Mr Arafat has been trying to achieve in the past, but the fragmentation of the organisation makes it more difficult to control.

Labour party strategists have little doubt that more suicide bombs will mean that it will certainly lose the election to be held on 29 May. The bombs have strengthened the opposition Likud bloc by persuading David Levy, the former foreign minister, to lead his small breakaway party, Gesher, back into the fold in return for seven guaranteed seats in the Knesset (parliament).

Mr Levy has reportedly been offered the post of foreign minister in a future Likud government.

In the latest poll carried out by the daily Ma'ariv, 7 per cent of voters said they had switched from Labour to Likud because of the bomb attacks. Mr Peres led Binyamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader, by 46 per cent to 44 per cent. Two-thirds of voters thought the Israeli army should operate against organisations like Hamas in territory controlled by Mr Arafat.

A similar proportion said they still supported the peace process with the Palestinians.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor