Thu, Oct 12, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Qatar's Palestine initiative founders

NEW SETBACK Yet another plan to create a unity government fizzled due to opposition to recognizing Israel and the refusal to give up armed resistance

AP , GAZA

Qatar's attempt to end a growing crisis in the Palestinian territories appeared to end in failure on Tuesday after Hamas rejected the plan's key demands that it recognize Israel and renounce violence.

The rival Fatah group declared the Qatari initiative a failure and blamed Hamas for the breakdown in negotiations -- the latest setback to international efforts to moderate the Islamic militant group and restore much-needed aid to the Palestinians.

Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led government, said the group is ready to continue the negotiations, insisting that "the way is not blocked."

Hamad said his group has reservations about Qatar's proposal for a new Palestinian national unity government that would recognize Israel's right to exist. He also said his group is not ready to give up its armed struggle against Israel.

"We differentiate between resistance and terrorism," he said.

Hamad spoke a day after Qatar's foreign minister presented his country's six-point plan in separate meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. The minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem al Thani, left the area early on Tuesday.

Israel kept up its pressure on militants overnight, with an airstrike on the Gaza home of a Hamas legislator, Mariam Farhat. Palestinian security officials said the house was unoccupied at the time of the attack, in the early hours yesterday, and no casualties were reported.

The army said aircraft hit an uninhabited building in which arms were stored.

On Tuesday night, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a vehicle near the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, Palestinians said, wounding a gunman. The military said only that it struck at a militant.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli forces shot and killed an armed Palestinian near the border fence, the military and Palestinians said.

Israel and Western donor nations cut off hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas won parliamentary elections in January and formed a new government.

The international community wants Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept past peace agreements.

Hamas refuses to accept the conditions, despite widespread economic hardship caused by the international sanctions.

Palestinian Information Minister Youssef Rizka of Hamas blamed the US for the deadlock, saying the US rejected what he called the "reconciliation document," referring to a plan formulated by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, accepting a Palestinian state in the West Bank but not explicitly recognizing Israel.

The document has been a basis for Hamas-Fatah talks.

Rizka said on Tuesday that Hamas would not give in to the international demands "that ask of the government to directly recognize the two-state solution and renounce terrorism, which are hard conditions and were rejected by the people in the last election."

An Israeli military offensive in Gaza, launched after Hamas-linked militants tunneled under the border and captured an Israeli soldier in June, has added to the misery. The soldier remains in captivity.

Abbas has been pushing Hamas to form a coalition based on the international demands as a way out of the crisis.

Negotiations have been going on for weeks, but without results. The rising tensions led to infighting that killed 12 people last week.

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