IDF Warns of Wave of Violence as Hamas Vows to Sink Peace Talks

Army and police on high alert after second West Bank shooting in two days mars opening of Israel-PA talks in Washington; Hamas promises more attacks.

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday warned of a possible wave of attacks as Hamas militants try to sabotage Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which formally opened in Washington on Wednesday.

The warning follows two drive-by shootings on Israeli targets in the West Bank this week, which killed four Israeli civilians and wounded two more. Hamas militants claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Israel Police officers surveying the scene of the West Bank attack on Aug. 31, 2010. Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum

"There may be more attacks," Brig. Gen Nitzan Alon told Army Radio. "The capability exists on the ground."

Alon said the military had received no specific intelligence about the attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday – but that the army had expected attempts to disrupt the talks.

"We knew opposition elements like Hamas would try to carry out attacks to try and disrupt the diplomatic process," Alon said.

Hamas on Thursday vowed more violence: "Operations of resistance will continue and the measures by the occupation and Fatah will not block them," said Hamas
spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Palestinian President Abbas was set to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the State Department later on Thursday for the first direct peace talks for 20 months.

"Mahmoud Abbas does not have the right to speak for the Palestinians, nor to represent them and therefore, any results will not be binding on the Palestinian people," Zuhri said.

Israeli police were on high alert Thursday following the shootings and a police spokesman said additional security was being deployed in the West Bank in anticipation of a third attack.

Netanyahu, who has said repeatedly that Israel's security is his major concern in negotiations, vowed Wednesday that he would not allow the outbreak of violence to damage the talks with Abbas.

As preparations continued for the first headmeeting between the two, the Palestinian Authority moved quickly to reassure Israel and reassert control in the West Bank, rounding up over 500 Hamas supporters.

Hamas opposes negotiations with Israel and has been at odds with Abbas' ruling Fatah faction since violently seizing the Gaza Strip from its Palestinian rival in 2007.

U.S. President Brack Obama, who has staked considerable political capital on the American-sponsored peace talks, on Wednesday night urged both sides not to be deterred by the attacks and seize an historic opportunity for compromise.

"This moment of opportunity may not soon come again," Obama said.