Friday, June 30, 2006


Hamas and al-Aqsa/Fatah are not terrorists. They are the duly elected government of the Palestinians. Therefore, when they send men out to hunt down and kill Israelis, or shoot off rockets, those men are not terrorists, they are the armed forces of the Peaceful State Of Palestine:

Israel is well within their rights to destroy the Palestinian regime. It seems that they have made the decision to do so, and I am glad:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israel destroyed the office of the Palestinian interior minister in a series of airstrikes Friday, increasing the pressure on the Hamas government to release a kidnapped soldier a day after it delayed a broad ground offensive into the Gaza Strip.

Also Friday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that Israel's offensive in Gaza was part of a premeditated plan to bring down the Hamas-led government.

Israel's air force has struck more than 30 targets in Gaza — including the Palestinian Interior Ministry — in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants on Sunday.

Haniyeh said the military offensive was not only about rescuing the soldier, but also crippling Hamas, which has refused to renounce violence since being swept to power in January parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, Israel's air force struck more than 30 targets in Gaza over 24 hours, hitting roads, bridges and power plants. The army also fired hundreds of artillery shells in the offensive to force Hamas-linked militants to release Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19. He was captured Sunday when Gaza militants tunneled under the border, attacking an Israeli outpost and killing two other soldiers.

While thousands of troops massed along both sides of the Israel-Gaza border waiting for the go-ahead for an invasion, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said militants had agreed to Shalit's conditional release, but that Israel had not accepted the terms. Mubarak did not specify the terms.

Israeli officials said they did not know of such an offer. But a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the secrecy of the diplomacy, said a planned ground offensive had been delayed due to a request by Egypt that mediators be given a chance to resolve the crisis.

Other officials, however, denied the delay was due to Egypt, saying it reflected Israel's overall management of the crisis, which they said required withholding force when necessary.

"The prime minister is managing the campaign while seeing all the balances, including the diplomatic one," said Tzahi Hanegbi, head of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee. "He needs to see the big picture, and the big picture is that there is a meaning to sometimes waiting a half a day, or a day. You need to exhaust all options."

The pre-dawn missile attack on the Interior Ministry scored a direct hit on Interior Minister Said Siyam's fourth floor office, which went up in flames. The ground floor office of Siyam's bodyguard was also destroyed, while the first, second and third floors of the buildings — where passports and ID cards are printed — were not damaged. Nobody was hurt.

In a separate airstrike, three Israeli missiles hit the office of hard-line Interior Ministry official Khaled Abu Ilal, who heads a pro-Hamas militia.

The army said it also attacked a cell that attempted to fire an anti-tank missile at Israeli forces in southern Gaza. Mohammed Abdel Al, 25, a local leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, died early Friday of wounds he suffered in the strike. His death was the first in Israel's three-day-old offensive.

In a gunbattle in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, three Fatah-affiliated gunmen were wounded in what they said was a fight against undercover Israeli forces. Israel denied it had any ground forces in the area.

Israeli ground troops have entered southern Gaza but have not yet penetrated the north.

The Interior Ministry is nominally in charge of the Palestinian security forces, but President Mahmoud Abbas has stripped it of much of its authority in a power struggle with Hamas. The Israeli military said it targeted the ministry because it was "a meeting place to plan and direct terror activity."

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz called for leaders with influence over the Hamas government to pressure them to release Shalit.

"The quicker this is done the better it will be. If the soldier will be returned and the Qassam fire will be halted we will also return our soldiers to their bases," Peretz was quoted as saying in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot on Friday. He was referring to rockets militants have fired at Israel from Gaza.

Palestinian Foreign Ministry spokesman Taher al-Nunu said the Palestinian government was still seeking a "diplomatic solution to end the crisis."

There has been no word on Shalit's condition since his abduction. The Popular Resistance Committees, one of the groups holding him, insisted Thursday on swapping him for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, but Israel rejected that demand.

Palestinian police and members of the Hamas militia guarding the Foreign Ministry fled after the attack on the nearby Interior Ministry, fearing their building would be next, witnesses said. The office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Abbas' house are less than half a mile from the Interior Ministry.

Haniyeh and nearly all the members his Hamas-led Cabinet have not been seen since Shalit's kidnapping, fearing they could be killed or arrested. Israel arrested 64 Hamas officials in the West Bank on Thursday, including eight Cabinet members.

In an unprecedented punishment Friday, the Israeli interior ministry also revoked the Jerusalem residency rights of four senior Hamas officials, officials said. The measure takes away their right to live in the holy city and travel within Israel freely.

Decoy convoys have been sent out ahead of any trips by Haniyeh, Siyam and Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, who apparently fear Israel's air force will target and kill them as it did Hamas leaders Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi in 2004.

About 2,500 people attended a Hamas rally in Gaza City on Thursday evening, denouncing Israel and calling for more abductions.

Palestinian militants launched homemade rockets Thursday night, and four landed inside Israel, causing no damage or injuries, the army said. Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group affiliated with Abbas' Fatah, claimed responsibility.