Al-Ahram Weekly Online   14 - 20 August 2003
Issue No. 651
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Is the hudna over?

Israel's assassinations of Palestinian activists have led to a renewal of suicide bombings and threaten to deal a deadly blow to a fragile cease-fire, reports Khaled Amayreh from Gaza

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Residents search among the rubble of a residential building destroyed by Israeli troops during a raid in Askar refugee camp near Nablus on Friday
In an apparent retaliation for the killing of five Palestinians by the Israeli military earlier in the week, Palestinian resistance groups on Tuesday carried out two suicide bombings against Israeli targets. In the first attack a Palestinian blew himself up at the entrance of the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel, killing one Jewish settler and badly injuring two others. In the second attack, a Palestinian woman blew herself up at the entrance of a small shopping mall in the small Israeli town of Rosh Ha'yen, east of Tel Aviv, killing one person and injuring 14 others, four seriously. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in Ariel, while Al- Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsiblity for the attack in Rosh Ha'yen.

Accusing the government of Mahmoud Abbad of "failing to prevent the attacks", the Israeli government reacted by cancelling the expected release of nearly 67 Palestinian prisoners, mostly labourers who had been imprisoned for entering Israel without a valid permit. In another retaliatory measure, the Israeli army tightened its originally harsh restrictions and collective punitive measures against Palestinian civilians.

For their part, the three major Palestinian resistance groups, Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad, blamed Israel for the renewed violence, arguing that unceasing Israeli raids on population centres were bound to draw a Palestinian reaction. "Israel must understand that it can't kill Palestinians with impunity," said Islamic Jihad Spokesman Abdullah Al- Shami in Gaza. "There is no such thing as a one- sided hudna, we are not willing to observe a cease- fire while they attack our towns and kill our people."

Al-Shami pointed out that all the meetings held between Palestinian Premier Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon failed to achieve any concrete results for the Palestinians, neither at the political level nor at the human level.

The hudna was declared by all Palestinian resistance groups on 29 June following intensive mediation efforts by Egyptian officials, including Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. The Palestinians understood then that in return for stopping all attacks against Israeli targets, Israel would refrain from assassinating Palestinian activists and would withdraw from Palestinian population centres in return for stopping all attacks on Israeli targets.

Israel, however, never really showed commitment to the hudna. Apart from removing a handful of West Bank roadblocks, the Israeli military retained its harsh grip on Palestinian life, leaving intact more than 159 roadblocks which effectively suffocate Palestinian movement and reduce their towns and villages to large, open-air detention camps.

Furthermore, the Israeli army has continued to carry out constant raids on Palestinian towns, mainly for the purpose of rounding-up and detaining more Palestinian activists. A particularly provocative raid occurred on 8 August at Askar refugee camp outside Nablus, when Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers invaded the camp and killed four Palestinians. Two of the victims were members of Izzeddin Al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, who two exchanged fire with Israeli troops, killing one soldier before they were killed.

Following the deadly raid, Izzeddin Al-Qassam promised retaliation. "We call on our resistance cells to respond to these crimes and to teach the enemy a deterrent lesson," read a statement issued by the group.

But despite this statement, Tuesday's suicide bombings don't necessarily suggest that Palestinian resistance groups are about to terminate the 45-day hudna. "We are still committed to the hudna but the violation by the Israelis will not pass without a reaction. There will be a reaction to each Israeli violation," Hamas Spokesman Abdul-Aziz Al-Rantisi told reporters in Gaza this week.

Indeed, the two attacks are a grim reminder of the volatile situation in the occupied territories that threatens to explode at any moment. Israel's unmitigated repression of the Palestinians and the continued building, despite American reservations and international criticisms, of the apartheid wall has done nothing more than to deepen Palestinian bitterness and frustration.

"With an assassination in Beirut, four assassinations in Nablus, another assassination in Jenin, and a nefarious apartheid wall which carves still more Palestinian land, an explosion is inevitable," said Palestinian activist and community leader Mustafa Al- Barghouti.

The new realities Israel is creating in the occupied territories are prompting a growing number of Palestinian intellectuals to demand that their leadership abandon the idea of a two-state solution. Several Palestinian writers, intellectuals and academics this week called on the Palestinian Authority to adopt the idea of a bi-national state, where Palestinians and Jews would live as equal citizens in all of mandatory Palestine.

The idea of a bi-national state is not acceptable to most Israelis, and especially the Zionist movement, since it would spell the end of classical Zionism and the idea of a Jewish state for a Jewish people. But considering the fact that Israeli settlements in the West Bank have rendered the goal of establishing a viable Palestinian state utterly unrealistic if not outright impossible, the only remaining alternative would be a democratic, civil bi-national state. The other alternative would be continued occupation, more apartheid, violence and bloodshed.

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