CIA director heads to Mideast
From Mike Hanna
Hamas released a statement late Monday saying the group would not carry out attacks in Israel if Israeli forces stop targeting Palestinians, but a senior Hamas official said Tuesday there was "no change in our previous policy."
"We are not changing our policy, so resistance means to attack Israel everywhere by all means," Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said. "No cease-fire."
The statement released Monday came after a meeting between leaders of the fundamentalist Islamic group and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and leaders of his Fatah movement. In the statement, Hamas warned of a harsher-than-ever response if Israel failed to stop targeting Palestinians.
Al-Zahhar said he couldn't say whether the statement was genuine, but said the political leadership did not endorse it.
Hamas has accused the Israelis of systematic targeting and assassination of Palestinians; the Israelis say that they fire at Palestinians only when they are fired upon, and that they target Palestinians known to carry out attacks against Israelis.
Meanwhile, ahead of Tenet's expected arrival on Wednesday, intense diplomatic efforts continued throughout the region in an attempt to ensure that the relative cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians doesn't crumble.
Special Russian envoy Andrei Vdovin met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Tuesday morning.
Peres has said he's looking to a long period of cooling off, at least eight weeks, before recommendations of the Mitchell Report could begin to be implemented.
Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who chairs an independent, international five-person committee investigating the violence, issued a report last month with suggested steps for resumption of the peace process.(More on Mitchell report)
Mideast diplomatic efforts appear to be intensifying. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has been shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian officials and was meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday.
Last week, Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian fighting, followed a few days later by a similar declaration from Arafat. The Palestinian Authority leader came under intense diplomatic pressure to order the cease-fire after a suicide bomber set off a blast at a Tel Aviv nightclub, killing himself and 20 Israelis. Israel has not retaliated for that bombing.
Monday night's statement from Hamas appeared to be in response to Arafat's declaration.
Despite the cease-fires, violence continued. On Tuesday, a known Fatah operative was critically wounded in an explosion. It was not immediately clear who was responsible. Palestinians blamed Israel. Israel Defense Forces officials said they were investigating.
At least six Palestinians were reportedly wounded during a rock-tossing incident at a checkpoint near Ramallah in the West Bank. Israeli Army radio said demonstrators began throwing stones after a demonstration by Palestinians to mark 34 years since the Israeli victory in the Six Day War.
On Monday, the cease-fire was strained by heavy exchanges of gunfire between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers at Rafah in southern Gaza. At least 18 Palestinians were injured, two of them seriously, Palestinian hospital officials said. Three Israeli soldiers were slightly injured.
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