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May 21, 2003

Why militants reject the roadmap

Believe it or not, this is the BBC calling
"These attacks will continue in all the territories of 1948 and 1967, and we will not stop attacking the Zionist Jewish people as long as any of them remain in our land." Hamas considers all of Israel as occupied territory. The words come from a statement issued on Monday morning by the armed wing of the militant group Hamas.

Hamas is prominent among the Palestinian groups who have refused to have anything to do with the latest plan for peace in the Middle East - the so-called roadmap.

The group said it had carried out a suicide bomb attack in the Gaza Strip on Monday where a bomber, on a bicycle, rode up to an Israeli army jeep near the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom. He detonated between 10 and 20 kilograms of explosives, killing himself and wounding three Israeli soldiers, the Israeli army said

"What they consider as the far goal for them, we consider as just a stage in our struggle." Dr Abdel-Aziz Rantissi, Hamas

The reasons Hamas reject the roadmap are hinted at in the statement above. "1948" refers to the whole of Palestine as it was during the British mandate, before the State of Israel was established. "1967" refers to the Israeli borders as they were before the Israeli army took control of the West Bank and Gaza during the war of that year.

The Palestinian Authority, under the new Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas , more commonly known as Abu Mazen, has accepted the roadmap. The plan speaks of "a permanent two-state solution", of "an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel". That is what Hamas, and other militant groups like Islamic Jihad, do not agree to.

In a recent interview, one of Hamas' political leaders, Dr Abdel-Aziz Rantissi, explained his movement's position relative to that of the Palestinian Authority. "What they consider as the far goal for them, we consider as just a stage in our struggle. We believe that we shouldn't give up any part of our land." 'No surrender'

Israel has yet to accept the roadmap, saying it has "reservations". Militants have carried out dozens of bombings. At the weekend, as Abu Mazen met Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Hamas suicide bombings continued.

Six Israelis and a Palestinian from east Jerusalem died in an attack on a bus in Jerusalem on Sunday morning. Such attacks are the principle reason given by Israel for its reservations.

Under the terms of the roadmap, the Palestinians must "undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting or planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere." That means Hamas and the other militant groups.

But it will be a difficult task. Hamas have always said that they have no intention of handing over their weapons while Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza continue. As the roadmap was published, and ever since then, Dr Rantissi's line has been clear. "We will not surrender in front of the aggression of the Israelis. And we said many times that as long as there is occupation, there will be resistance," he insisted. Dr Rantissi says politely that the Palestinian Authority is "proceeding in the wrong way".

Opinion in the streets is harsher. Many Hamas supporters, pointing to past failures, believe that the Palestinian Authority should not be talking to Israel at all in the current climate. They fear they will be sold short on issues such as the return of refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces withdrew from the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, five days after they took it over to stop Hamas firing rockets at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, and at nearby Israeli towns.

The crude, home-made, devices rarely cause serious injury. But they do spread fear, and the Israeli army has been under pressure to stop the attacks.

At least six Palestinians - four teenage boys, and two militants - were killed in the five-day long operation. One Israeli soldier was severely injured. During the Israeli raid, Hamas militants have continued to launch rockets, and have issued defiant statements describing their actions. Not only do they reject the route which the roadmap proposes to take, they do not even see the kind of Palestinian state it is supposed to lead to as a desirable final destination.

Coming from the BBC, this is amazing. To highlight the intentions of Hamas in this way is truely a abberation. Let's hope that its one that will be repeated.