Hamas fighters in procession show defiance to Israel

Thousands join

many protest Palestinian premier

May 03, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JERUSALEM - In a show of defiance to Israel and the new Palestinian government, hundreds of masked and armed Hamas fighters marched through the streets of Gaza City yesterday in a funeral procession for 12 people killed in an Israeli raid Thursday.

The funeral drew thousands of Gazans, many of them calling for retaliation or chanting slogans against the first Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, who took office Tuesday. Abbas, who is known as Abu Mazen, wants to restrain the armed uprising.

"You Abu Mazen are a collaborator of Israel and America!" some shouted.

A 13th person killed in the Israeli incursion, a 2-year-old boy who was shot in the head, was buried Thursday.

Palestinian officials and some Israeli analysts criticized the raid as timed to undermine Abbas and a new international peace plan, known as a road map, that was unveiled Wednesday.

Israeli officials said that the Gaza raid was necessary to capture three brothers from Hamas involved in firing mortar bombs and rockets at Israeli targets. The incursion touched off an hourslong gunbattle with Hamas fighters in a crowded neighborhood of Gaza City.

Abbas has been trying to persuade Hamas to agree to a truce and to join the Palestinian political process, competing against his own Fatah faction for leadership in the governing Palestinian Authority. Hamas, which opposes any negotiations with Israel, has shunned the Palestinian Authority as a compromised creature of the Oslo peace process.

Abbas says that he wants pluralism in politics, but that the Palestinian factions can have only a single leadership when it comes to arms. But top Israeli security officials say they want to see Abbas crush Hamas, not reach a truce with it. They say that a truce would only give the group time to rearm.

Hamas leaders have rejected Abbas' offer, as have militants from within Fatah.

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