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Hamas Rejects Israel...s Policy, Calls It a ...Declaration of War...

By Dina Kraft
THE NEW YORK TIMES


TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

Israel’s decision to boycott the new Hamas-led Palestinian government was sharply condemned on Monday by Hamas, which called the decision a “declaration of war.”

“It is a failed attempt to make divisions among Palestinians,” a Hamas statement said. “It is part of a continuous siege on the Palestinian people.”

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Israel is not explicitly ending ties, also rejected the new policy, saying it violated international law and existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

The statement from the militant group Hamas suggested that the Israeli government was trying to punish the Palestinian people for voting the group into office in parliamentary elections in January, when Abbas’ Fatah organization was ousted as the ruling party. Abbas retains his post, however.

In the first act of its new policy, Israel closed down a joint security coordination office near the West Bank town of Jericho. It was among the last offices run together by Israeli soldiers and Palestinian security officials.

The Israeli government has repeatedly said that it would not deal with Hamas until the group recognizes Israel’s right to exist, renounces terrorism, and abides by previous agreements between the sides.

“If you are outside the international community and you act like a pariah, you cannot complain that people treat you like a pariah,” said Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, responding to the Hamas statement.

Israel has been walking a political tightrope since Hamas’ victory, trying to delegitimize the militant Islamic party but not to destabilize the government it now runs to the point of causing a crisis for the general population.

Regev said that Israel was working to find ways to bypass the Palestinian government so that international humanitarian assistance could directly reach the Palestinian people.

Last week, the United States and the European Union announced that they would suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority because they regard Hamas as a terrorist organization. The move was a severe blow to the authority, which is limping through a financial crisis.

In Gaza City, hundreds of schoolchildren and teenagers marched on Monday, waving the green flags of Hamas, to protest the EU decision to cut off aid.

Israel, meanwhile, continued its military assault on Palestinian militants launching homemade rockets from the Gaza Strip into neighboring Israeli towns and villages.

A 9-year-old Palestinian girl, Ghader Ghabin, was killed when Israeli tank shells crashed through the ceiling of her home in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiyah, Palestinian security officials said. The shelling also injured eleven other family members in the same house, witnesses said.

The Israeli army spokesman’s office confirmed that there had been fire in the direction of the town, a dense urban area from which it said rockets had been launched repeatedly.