Hamas attacks: A bid to scuttle direct talks?
The mood is tense in Gaza after Israeli airstrikes in response to Palestinian rocket attacks injured scores and killed a top Hamas commander. Analysts say Hamas launched the attacks to scuttle direct peace talks.
Gaza City, Gaza
Israel and forces loyal to the militant Hamas government that controls Gaza exchanged fire this weekend, with Palestinian rockets hitting southern Israel and Israel responding with multiple airstrikes across the territory.Skip to next paragraph
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On Friday, Palestinian rockets damaged a building in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Israel retaliated with airstrikes against densely populated areas of Gaza City and Rafah, injuring scores and killing Hamas military commander Eissa al Batran.
Each tit-for-tat attack raises concerns of an escalation in violence between the two sides, but analysts say the rocket attacks were an attempt by Hamas to scuttle direct talks that President Obama's administration has been increasing pressure on the Palestinians to accept.
Palestinian militants launched their attack on Ashkelon “to send a short message to say no to direct negotiations with Israel,” which were endorsed at an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Thursday, says Talal Aukal, a political analyst and weekly columnist for Al Ayyam, a Palestinian newspaper.
Last week, Hamas warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to relaunch direct talks.
"We warn [Mr. Abbas] of the consequences of returning to negotiations, either with Arab cover or under pressure from America, because this will deepen the divide and put our cause on the the brink of collapse," senior Hamas leader Salah al-Bardawil said in a statement.