Israeli team to draft stand on Hamas takeover of PA

An Israeli inter-ministerial team is scheduled to begin work Sunday to formulate Israel’s official stand in the event that Hamas takes control over the Palestinian Authority, following assessments that Hamas is expected to do well in the January 25 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Israel Radio reported Saturday. The team was formed in light of the anarchy spreading in the PA and the PA’s inability to enforce the law, the radio said. The team, headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s adviser Dov Weisglass, will include Shin Bet and security officials as well as Foreign Ministry representatives. Weisglass will also raise the issue in a meeting he is scheduled to hold in Jerusalem with U.S. envoy David Welsch, the radio said. The radio quoted Kadima’s Shimon Peres say saying Saturday that if the Hamas takes control over the PA, the continuation of the road map peace plan would be questionable. „Such a takeover would endanger the international assistance given to the Palestinians because no country would give financial or other help to an authority ruled by an armed terror organization,” the radio quoted Peres as saying. Struggle among Islamist groups in Gaza Strip escalates Several clashes between militant groups erupted on Friday as the struggle between militant Islamist organizations in the Gaza Strip escalated, the radio reported Saturday. In Beit Hanun, five former Hamas activists attacked aides to Hamas spokesman Mushir al Masri at the entrance to one of the town’s mosques and an exchange of fire ensued, the radio said. In the Shati refugee camp, a scuffle erupted in a mosque between ten Hamas men who argued among themselves over who would deliver the Friday sermon in the mosque. One of the men was injured. In Rafah, Islamic Jihad men exchanged fire with Hamas activists near the city’s main mosque. The radio reported that the Islamist organizations were fighting over control of the mosques due to the importance of the sermons there, which are an important channel for delivering election propaganda. In another sign of the increasing anarchy in the Strip, about 50 masked gunmen occupied a Palestinian government office in the Gaza Strip on Saturday to demand jobs, witnesses and a spokesman for the gunmen said. The group, members of a political wing of the mainstream Fatah movement, occupied an Interior Ministry office in Dir el-Balah refugee camp, forced everyone to leave and stood guard outside. A spokesmen for the gunmen said they wanted jobs. On Friday a 14-year-old Palestinian youth was killed after gunmen stormed a police station where relatives of the armed Palestinians were held. During the exchange of fire, Fathy Mushtaha was mistakenly shot in the head and died instantly, the police said. An attempt by the same family to free their relative sparked a deadly exchange on Thursday that killed a police officer and a civilian. Palestinian gunmen again set up roadblock near Rafah crossing Palestinian gunmen, including several off-duty police officers, set up an impromptu roadblock Saturday near the Gaza-Egypt border and said they would prevent VIPs from crossing. The gunmen set up the roadblock 200 meters away from the Rafah crossing, in an attempt to pressure officials to arrest those who killed a Palestinian policeman Thursday. The policeman was killed in a family feud, as members of one family attacked a local police station. Police responded on Friday by shutting down the border crossing for several hours, forcing European monitors to flee, and demanding the arrest and execution of the killers of the policeman. The weekend incidents, along with this week’s kidnapping of a British aid worker and her parents, were the latest in a rash of armed kidnappings and takeovers of government buildings that underscore the lawlessness in Gaza and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ inability to bring order to the coastal area following Israel’s withdrawal in September. The border was closed because according to the Israeli-Palestinian agreement the crossing cannot operate if the European contingent is not present. During the standoff, the monitors moved to the Kerem Shalom Israel Defense Forces base.