Hamas backtracks on apology over harming Israeli civilians

February 07, 2010

MUNICH — GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — — The Hamas government in Gaza backtracked Saturday on its apology earlier in the week in which it expressed regret for harming Israeli civilians in rocket attacks. The apology had signaled a rare deviation from Hamas' violent ideology, and the subsequent zigzag reflects the Islamic militants' conflicting objectives. Hamas, which seized Gaza by force in 2007, is trying to reach out to the West in hopes of winning recognition and getting Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. However, Hamas is also reluctant to discard its violent ideology for fear of losing credibility at home. The apology for the rockets was part of the Hamas government's response to a United Nations report that said both Hamas and Israel committed war crimes during Israel's three-week Gaza offensive last winter. U.N. investigators accused Hamas of firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians. The U.N. report said Israel used disproportionate force and deliberately targeted civilians. About 1,400 Gazans were killed, including hundreds of civilians, as well as 13 Israelis. During the war, Gaza militants fired about 800 rockets and mortar shells into Israel, killing three Israeli civilians and wounding 80. The attacks forced hundreds of thousands of Israelis to seek shelters.

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