Gaza, June 8 (Reuters): Three Palestinian militant groups combined for a rare joint attack that killed four Israeli soldiers today, defying peace pledges made by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at a West Asian summit.
Disguised as Israeli soldiers, three gunmen from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades attacked an army post near the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the military said. All three were shot dead in the gunbattle.
“Today, the blood of Palestinians says that we are unified in the trench of resistance,” said Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, a Hamas leader. “The war against terrorism of Israelis will continue as long as there is occupation.”
Two Palestinian gunmen also killed an unidentified Israeli in an ambush in the West Bank city of Hebron before being shot dead by soldiers patrolling nearby, Israel radio said.
Palestinian hardliners have vowed to defy the moderate Abbas’ bid to demilitarise a 32-month-old uprising for statehood, threatening to strangle the latest international peace initiative almost at birth.
Militants oppose decisions at landmark summits which US President George W. Bush held in Aqaba, Jordan, on Wednesday with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, a day earlier with Arab leaders.
The two summits endorsed a US-backed “road map” for Israeli-Palestinian peace, which calls for an end to violence and mutual confidence-building steps, leading to the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in 2005. Militant groups rejected Abbas’ call in Aqaba for attacks on Israelis to cease and then broke off truce talks the Prime Minister had launched before the summit.
Abbas responded by appealing for a resumption of ceasefire talks. He said he wanted to avoid armed confrontation with militant groups, which must be disarmed under the road map.
“Perhaps the Aqaba statement was misunderstood. We think that dialogue is the only way to achieve our goal. Through this dialogue, we want to achieve calm, not civil war,” he told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
In Washington, US secretary of state Colin Powell said the bloodshed must not be allowed to shred the road map. “We have to all work together to get this terrorism under control but at the same time not let terrorism stop us moving forward,” he told Fox News Sunday, alluding to the Gaza attack. He said Abbas could not curb militants without help.