2 killed in Gaza; Haniyeh says future of PA in doubt

Jordan to treat Palestinians affected by suspect powder


AN ISRAELI AIR strike in Gaza City on Wednesday killed three people, including a five-year-old girl, and wounded two others, Palestinian officials and witnesses said.

The Israeli army said its forces attacked a “terrorist training camp” in Gaza, but gave no further details.

Witnesses said the air strike was directed at a small grove of citrus trees in the Tufah area of Gaza.

Men wept over bodies at Shifa Hospital, where they were taken. The girl was brought to the hospital with the two men, but it was unclear how she was hit, police said. A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee, Abu Mijhad, said the two men belonged to his group. The PRC is a small group affiliated with Hamas.

One of those killed, Ramadan Majdalawi, was a senior field commander, the group said.

A Palestinian who was injured in the stomach in the attack said he didn’t see or hear an Israeli aircraft before the strike but only felt the air pressure and heard two explosions. The man in his forties said he was standing beside the citrus grove on the road and flew backward after the first explosion. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh warned Wednesday that Israel’s offensive against his government raised questions over the future of the Palestinian Authority.

“The question we have to ask ourselves is the following: Can the Palestinian Authority continue to operate and function in these circumstances,” Haniyeh said as the Jewish state pressed on with a deadly six-week-old offensive in Gaza.

A dissolution of the Palestinian Authority has been mooted in the past, notably when former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon considered expelling the late president Yasser Arafat, who died in November 2004.

But it was the first time a Palestinian prime minister has voiced the possibility.

“We need to debate the future of the Palestinian Authority following the kidnapping of its second highest-ranking figure and an attempt to assassinate its prime minister,” Haniyeh told a parliamentary     videoconference. Late Saturday, Israeli forces arrested Parliamentary Speaker Aziz Dweik from his home in Ramallah, branding him a terrorist.

Dweik is officially the Palestinian Authority’s second in command.

And on Monday, seven employees of the Palestinian Cabinet were hospitalised after opening an envelope destined for Haniyeh that contained a suspect powder.

Haniyeh accused the United States and Israel of seeking to undermine the structure of the Palestinian Authority by not respecting the results of the January 25 parliamentary elections won by his Hamas πarty.

Israel and the West consider Hamas to be a terrorist group.

Haniyeh’s remarks on the future of the Palestinian Authority echoed previous comments from several local lawmakers.

According to one, Mahmoud Musleh, the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, which was created in 1994, would force Israel to assume its responsibilities and place the issue in the hands of the world community.

Hassan Khreisheh, the deputy speaker of parliament, has said the need to maintain the functions of the authority were being seriously evaluated after the raft of detentions.

For Hani Habib, a local journalist and political analyst, Israel would find itself in the dock if the Palestinian Authority dissolves.

“In my opinion the Hamas government cannot succeed even without Israeli pressures, but the arrests of Hamas officials will put responsibility for any failure of the Hamas government with Israel,” he said.

Israel has embarked on a campaign to strangle Hamas after after Palestinian fightres killed two soldiers and captured a third in a cross-border raid in late June, arresting 64 Hamas officials including eight ministers.

At least 169 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed since Israel launched its “Summer Rains” operation against the Palestinian territory on June 28.

The United Nations has warned of a “forgotten tragedy” unfolding in the Gaza Strip while the eyes of the international community are on Israel’s four-week-old offensive against Hizbollah in southern Lebanon.

In Amman, meanwhile, Government Spokesperson Nasser Judeh said Jordan will provide medical care for Palestinian state employees exposed to a suspect powder this week at their offices in the West Bank.

“Employees of the Palestinian prime minister’s office were expected to arrive in Jordan and will be given medical care in Jordan,” Judeh told a weekly press conference.

King Abdullah “has ordered that they be given medical care and any other care they need”, he said, adding that the Palestinian Authority had requested assistance.

The group was due to arrive on Wednesday, but Judeh did not say how many people would be coming.

On Monday, five people were rushed to hospital after being exposed to a suspect powder in an envelope sent to government headquarters in Ramallah.

Palestinian medical and government sources said the five complain of headaches shortly after the envelope, addressed to Haniyeh, was opened.

Deputy Prime Minister Nassredin Shaer said at the time that the powder “was a clear attempt targeting the prime minister or the deputy prime minister”.

Palestinian Information Minister Yussef Rizka, meanwhile, told Al Ghad newspaper Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority will also send samples of the unidentified powder to Amman for analysis.

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