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Second Hamas attack could change focus of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

Hamas attacked Israeli settlers again Wednesday, vowing a wave of violence that could shift today's Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from settlements to security.

By Correspondent / September 2, 2010

An Israeli soldier surveys the scene of a shooting attack near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kochav Hashachar in the late evening of September 1. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas claimed responsibility on Thursday for the shooting attack in which two Israelis were wounded in the occupied West Bank.

Reuters

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Tel Aviv

Hamas attacks on Israeli settlers on two consecutive days are reviving concerns that a wave of violence could erode fledgling Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that open today in Washington.

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Two Israelis were injured in a drive-by shooting northeast of Jerusalem on Wednesday, just hours after four victims of a shooting the day before near Hebron were buried. Tuesday's shooting was the worst militant violence in more than two years, and the first of what Hamas has pledged will be a string of attacks.

Palestinian security forces, whose cooperation with their Israeli counterparts has substantially improved in recent years, rounded up dozens of suspected Hamas operatives across the West Bank.

But the uptick in militant violence could shift the focus of peace talks to security instead of Palestinian demands to end Israeli building in the West Bank, which settler leaders resumed in anger this week despite a settlement freeze in place until Sept. 26.

"The mood has changed everywhere and every level. This operation also casts a shadow over Washington,'' says Nabil Amr, a member of the Palestine National Council in Ramallah. "This operation gave Netanyahu a strong card especially on the security issue. He wants to put the security issue as key.''

Renewed focus on security

The West Bank has become more stable in recent years as both Israeli and Palestinian security services have improved. That removed disputes over daily security and militant attacks as an obstacle to the start of negotiations.

Hamas violence this week recall past strikes that complicated political talks. This time around, however, cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces is thought to be at a peak because both consider Hamas as their enemy.

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