Gaza fighting sidelines Israeli-Palestinian peace bid
President Abbas halted negotiations Sunday. Secretary of State Rice arrives this week.
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"Hamas has never been willing to stop other organizations from attacking Israel. Hamas only accounts for Hamas," Spyer says. Israel, he says, is holding back from launching a total invasion of the Gaza Strip, in part because there doesn't seem to be an exit strategy. One possibility is that Israel would establish a security zone in northern Gaza to be able to stop some of the rocket attacks, but even that couldn't stop all of them.Skip to next paragraph
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From Gaza, however, most Palestinians view it differently. The reason for the escalation, says Tawfiq Abu Shabak, who was at the house of mourning for a niece and nephew killed on Saturday – Imad, 17, and Jacqueline, 15 – is because Israel is facing its own internal political problems.
"The Israelis are unifying the Palestinians, in this, and Fatah is part of the struggle for freedom," Mr. Abu Shabak says. "We will keep fighting and resisting until the blood of our children will not go in vain. We call on President Abbas to stop his useless meetings with Olmert, because the Israelis are not seeking peace. These meetings are just for PR's sake."
Indeed, Palestinians called off negotiations with Israel over the weekend.
In the Israeli city of Ashkelon, rockets have hit homes and sent residents to the hospital. Some 12 rockets from Gaza, most of them thought to be Iranian-made Grad rockets, have fallen since Wednesday. It's not the first time the coastal city, 11 miles from Gaza, has been targeted, but prior attacks have been isolated salvos. Last week, the city of 120,000 distributed emergency instructions in case of a rocket attack in Hebrew, Russian, and Amharic.
"It was a powerful explosion. Like you were standing next to a tank,'' said Yitzhak Sharbane as he peered into the hole ripped into the roof of the building where he lives by a rocket.
The family was woken at 5 a.m. by the newly activated rocket-warning alert. Seconds later, the missile slammed into the six-story building as the Sharbane family huddled together in the stairwell two floors below.
On Sunday, Mr. Sharbane came home from work as a truck driver to help comfort a family still struggling with the realization that their city has become part of the Gaza war zone. "This is strange," said his wife, Ruth Sharbane. "We never thought that the rockets could reach us."
Sharbane said that while he supported Israel's retaliatory offensive in Gaza, the army by itself would be hard pressed to stop the weapons flow without reoccupying all of Gaza. Instead, an international force should be deployed in Gaza as peacekeepers.
Shimon Avital, meanwhile, sat in his mini-mart staring at Ashkelon's marina parking lot, where a rocket fell Saturday and shaking his head.
"I think this is going to be a long period of warfare," he said. Israel's army needs to remain in Gaza to keep cities like Ashkelon out of rocket range, he says. "It's a war and war has its price,'' he said. "Until a foreign army comes in to sit there, we have no choice.''