17 Jun 2007
Rockets fired from Southern Lebanon hit Northern Israel on Sunday afternoon. Two Katyusha rockets fell on an industrial zone inflicting minor damages without causing any injury. It was not immediately known who fired the rockets but suspicion was directed at Hezbollah and splinter Palestinian groups operating in the area. Hezbollah denied involvement in the firing of the rockets.
The incident raised fears of a replay of last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. That war resulted in more than a thousand Lebanese deaths, the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure and the pollution of the country’s coast with petroleum products. Hezbollah fired over 4000 rockets into Northern Israel that killed scores of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands.
The rocket attack Sunday was taking place on a day that the Palestinian Authority faction of Mahmud Abbas was installing a new government in Ramallah (neighboring West Bank) following the dissolution of the joint Hamas-Fatah government that collapsed when Hamas militarily seized control of Gaza strip.
The new temporary government headed by former Finance Minister in the dissolved Haniya-led cabinet Salam Fayyad is expected to “stay the course” of the moderate Palestinians and neutralize the influence of Hamas within the West bank. The cabinet that excludes Hamas is made up mostly of independent moderate people. Already the international community is sending positive signals to the new government. The relaxation of sanctions against the PA is already underway and aid donors have announced imminent resumption of aid to the Palestinian Authority. Sanctions were imposed on the Palestinian Authority when Ismail Haniya of Hamas became Prime Minister. Hamas has refused to recognize Israel and is largely seen as a stumbling block to the Peace Negotiations with Israel that were initiated by the late Yasser Arafat.
A presidential decree signed by Abbas authorized Prime Minister Fayyad to make decisions without the approval of the Hamas-dominated parliament and another decree outlawed armed groups linked to Hamas.
Hamas wasted no time in denouncing the decisions taken by Abbas and calling his government “illegal’. The rift between the two Palestinian factions seems to have deepened with the installation of the new government in Ramallah. Meanwhile residents of Gaza have started experiencing shortages of commodities and price hike as it is apparent that Israel may impose some form of restriction on the movement goods into what it now sees as a ‘terrorist entity’.
“I see a catastrophy” Said Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, in apparent reference to the future of Palestinians. He accused unnamed forces in the region of trying to frustrate the future of a Palestinian homeland. He pledged that they [Palestinian leaders] will not allow the “chaos” in Gaza to spread to the West bank.
If indeed Hezbollah had nothing to do with the rockets that fell on Northern Israel, observers guess that the act could be linked to the internal Palestinian struggle that is underway in Gaza and West Bank. The Israeli PM seems to agree that the attack was from Palestinians. “This was most likely an attack by a small Palestinian movement.” Said Ehud Olmert.
Every passing day seems to add a new twist to the volatile situation in the Middle East.
Njei Moses Timah