Killings by militants test Palestinian authority

THE newly installed Palestinian police faced a serious test yesterday when Islamic militants killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded two Jewish settlers inside the Gaza Strip.

Both Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group, claimed responsibility for the attacks, demonstrating that Islamic extremists remain determined to use violence to overturn the Gaza-Jericho agreement.

Palestinian commanders came under immediate pressure from Israel to round up the gunmen. However, the generals showed no immediate ability or willingness to take action.

The attacks coincided with the arrival in Gaza of Nabil Shaath, the chief Palestinian negotiator. Making his first visit to Gaza since 1964, Mr Shaath found himself embroiled in the first security crisis of the handover, and he carried out intensive negotiations with his Israeli counterparts to determine the next step.

Both sides were acutely aware that indecision could fuel new tension on Gaza's highly volatile streets, where thousands of Palestinian police now roam without any apparent sense of purpose.

'I am sorry the attacks happened,' said Mr Shaath, attempting to calm the atmosphere after emerging from the new Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza where he met General Nasser Youssef, head of the Palestinian police. 'We have to do our best to prevent and pre-empt the acts occurring. But I am not alarmed. The spirit in which the agreement is being applied is encouraging.'

General Youssef would not say what action was considered, saying: 'Hamas will not control the situation.' Earlier in the week the general said he would disarm the militants, but later clarified his comments saying there would be a new gun licensing system.

Although Israel reacted by closing off the Gaza Strip, Israeli commanders did not order their forces to pursue the attackers into Palestinian-controlled territory. Under new rules of engagement Israel maintains a right of hot pursuit. The attack against the soldiers took place about 1km inside the Gaza perimeter, where the Israeli army still has a checkpoint. The gunmen shot dead the two soldiers, then escaped back into the Palestinian area.

The second attack, against settlers, took place near the main settlement block of Gush Qatif.

The transfer of authority from Israeli forces to Palestinian police, under way for a week, had been carried out with relative calm, raising hopes that armed opponents had agreed to a truce.

However, the attacks were timed to cause maximum confusion, exposing the vulnerability of the Palestinian police who answer to no Palestinian authority as yet, and act in a power vacuum. Soundings in Gaza yesterday suggested the attacks were supported by many Palestinians, who remain highly sceptical about the agreement.

'Fantastic,' said Suhel Mohammed, 20, describing the killings. 'I hope the attacks continue until all the Israelis are gone. They are still close by in Gaza at the checkpoints and settlements.'

For Israelis the attacks appear to confirm their worst fears: that the new enclaves would be used as safe havens for the gunmen.

The anger of the Israeli right wing was spelt out yesterday by Benjamin Ben-Ellisar, a leading Likud member of the Knesset, who said: 'The agreement is against nature. How can a free and powerful nation like Israel try to strike a peaceful agreement with a snake, an Arafat, the PLO?'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced