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Gaza: Armed groups to form joint force

Sept. 3, 2010 12:33 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 4, 2010 4:55 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Twelve militant groups held a meeting in the Gaza Strip last week, and agreed to form a joint operations room to coordinate resistance activities, Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman told reporters Thursday.

Speaking shortly before US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell delivered an update on the peace talks in Washington, Abu Obeida, flanked by representatives of the 12 groups, announced a "new phase of advanced joint efforts" for the resistance.

The Al-Qassam Brigades claimed to have orchestrated and carried out two attacks on Israeli settlers in the West Bank over the past three days, the first killing four - two men, two women, one of the latter pregnant - near Hebron, and the second injuring two near Ramallah.

In statements issued by the brigades, the attacks were said to have been acts of opposition to the decision of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to return to peace talks with Israel against the wishes of Palestinians.

"The armed wings held a meeting in Gaza on 30 August, and agreed on a set of principals in working against the Israeli occupation." Abu Obeida said, hinting at the nature of the agreements, he added, "we will not allow the [peace talks] to pass, the resistance will have its word."

Abu Obeida reiterated the rejection of peace talks in their current form, and gave blessing to the individuals who carried out the two attacks on West Bank settlers on Tuesday and Wednesday night. "They were a natural response to the crimes of the occupation, and will not be the last of the resistance attacks," he said.

According to the spokesman, the participating brigades included:

Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades

Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades

Popular Resistance Committees' Salah Ad-Din Brigades

Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades

The Al-Sa’eqa forces, also linked to Fatah

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's Abu Ali Mustafa brigades,

Jihad Jibril Brigades, also linked to the PFLP

Saif Al-Islam Brigades

Al-Ansar Brigades

Humat Al-Aqsa (Al-Aqsa protectors)

The Al-Aqsa Brigades, however, later issued a statement saying they had no representative at the news conference, and that the statements made during the event did not "represent our stance."

The brigades said they refused to take part in media campaigns that aimed only to achieve a "narrow, partisan objective and not regional goals, at the expense of all Palestinians."

Continuing, the statement said that "resistance and armed struggle is our qualitative and strategic option that will not be given up as long as the occupation continues its crimes against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza."

The group called on other militant wings to reconsider their stance, but encouraged participation in a joint initiative in general.

Hamas condemns harassment of affiliates in West Bank

During the news conference, the Al-Qassam spokesman urged PA forces in the West Bank to halt their mass detention campaign targeting Hamas members in the West Bank. Detentions of hundreds of men and women were reported in the days following the attacks against settlers, which have been condemned by rights groups as arbitrary and against Palestinian Basic Laws.

Detainees included teachers, students, professionals, traders, and imams of mosques across the West Bank. Many were arrested at work or at home while others were summoned to security offices by phone and then detained, investigations from rights groups reported.

At a press conference in Gaza on Thursday Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused the PA of arresting 550 of the Islamist movement's affiliates.
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