Hamas minister target of attempted assassination in Gaza
No injuries reported; Palestinian PM says elections will spur unrest, vows jihad 'until J'lem liberated.'
Unidentified gunmen opened fire Sunday afternoon on the motorcade of Palestinian Interior Minister Said Siyam of Hamas, causing no injuries, in an apparent assassination attempt.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal, however, dismissed the shooting as a random attack and denied that the target was Siyam.
The men, driving in a nearby car, apparently shot at a car in the motorcade, but not at the vehicle carrying Siyam, he said.
Earlier Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that early Palestinian elections would lead to unrest. He made the comments after accusing Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the rival Fatah movement, of trying to force Hamas out of all government positions.
Aides to Abbas said Saturday he planned to call early elections, seeing little point in further talks on a government to replace a Hamas-led coalition boycotted by the West.
Haniyeh, on an official visit to Iran, a major backer of Hamas, said early elections would lead to violence. "The proposal ... about holding early elections is the start of the creation of disorder in Palestine," Haniyeh said at a news conference with local media.
"We studied that proposal and we believe it to be contrary to the legitimacy of the Palestinian government," Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
In an interview with Iranian state television late on Saturday, Haniyeh blamed Abbas for the breakdown in unity government talks. "Unfortunately, the talks did not succeed because of the hostility and stubbornness of the brothers that are in the Palestinian leadership," he said.
"They want the entire state and government to be entirely in the hands of non-Hamas people," he said. His comments in Arabic were translated into Farsi by Iranian television. Hamas defeated Abbas's Fatah in January elections for the Palestinian parliament and formed a government in March.
Haniyeh said pressure from Abbas to accept the Western conditions made Hamas realise that "they do not want the formation of a national unity government; they want to expel Hamas from the government."
Two Palestinian parliamentary guards were wounded in an exchange of fire at the legislature's building in the Gaza Strip in the latest incident of violence.
Haniyeh was due to meet Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday, the final day of the four-day visit to the Islamic state which has given the Hamas-led government $120 million this year towards a shortfall caused by the Western aid blockade.
Haniyeh: Jihad to go onOver the weekend, Haniyeh declared that the Palestinians will "continue the jihad until Jerusalem is liberated."
Haniyeh also said that Iran constitutes the Palestinians' strategic depth, reiterating that Hamas would never recognize Israel or accept past Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Speaking to thousands of students at the University of Tehran on Friday, Haniyeh said: "The braggart of the world [the United States] and the Zionists ... want us to accept the theft of Palestinian lands, stop the jihad and the resistance and accept the agreements signed with the Zionist enemy. We will never recognize the Zionist government. We will continue the jihad until Jerusalem is liberated."
He also said that Iran provides the Palestinians with "strategic depth" in their fight against Israel.
On Saturday night he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Following the meeting, Ahmadinejad said that Iran would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians until Jerusalem was liberated and urged: "The Palestinian government must not give in to international pressure; it must continue to fight the Jewish state."
Haniyeh thanked Ahmadinejad for his support and replied: "My government has no intention of recognizing the occupation government. We support the Palestinian people's right to resistance [the standard Palestinian term for terror attacks] and its right to cancel the cruel agreements that were signed in the past with the occupation regime."
He added that his government would never accept the three conditions set by the Quartet (the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia): recognizing Israel, accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and abjuring violence.
Khaled Meshal, who heads Hamas' political bureau, took a slightly different tack over the weekend, saying that "if Israel and the U.S. want to end the bloodshed in the region, they must accede to the Palestinians' demands." Specifically, he said, Israel must withdraw to the pre-1967 armistice lines, release all Palestinian prisoners, accept a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and dismantle all settlements. Otherwise, Hamas will wage open war against it, he warned.
Meshal, who was speaking in a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, said that all the Palestinian factions agree that a Palestinian state must be established based on the pre-1967 borders, and on this there can be no compromise. However, he added, "our long-term goal is the liberation of Palestine. Israel and the U.S. are deluding themselves if they think that we are not capable of doing this."