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      Hamas Boasts, Then Denies Foiling Attempt on Carter's Life

      Israeli and PA media had conflicting reports of an attempted assassination of Jimmy Carter in Gaza. For his part, Carter claims Gaza is "starving".
      By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
      First Publish: 6/16/2009, 4:13 PM / Last Update: 6/16/2009, 5:13 PM

      (file)
      Israeli and Palestinian Authority media presented conflicting reports regarding an attempted assassination of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during his visit to Gaza Tuesday morning. Under threat or not, Carter claimed that Arabs in the
      In Carter's view, Israel is responsible for the suffering he allegedly witnessed in Gaza.
      Hamas-controlled region were "literally starving".

      Carter arrived in Gaza early on Tuesday for meetings with leaders of the jihadist Hamas organization, which controls the Gazan half of the Palestinian Authority. Ahead of his trip, Carter said he would try to persuade Hamas to do what is necessary to lift the international community's boycott of the Islamist regime.

      The Israeli Maariv newspaper quoted an unnamed "Palestinian security source" as saying that Hamas militiamen neutralized two explosive devices placed along the route Carter's motorcade was to travel in northern Gaza. The bombs were reportedly placed near the Erez Crossing after Carter had already passed through, indicating an intention to strike at the former U.S. president on his way out of Gaza. The newspaper claimed that Hamas sappers and other security forces responded to the scene and eliminated the threat.

      Contradicting the Maariv report, however, a spokesman for the Hamas police force in Gaza said that his forces found no bombs along the route to Erez Crossing. Islam Shahwan confirmed that there was a brief suspicion of explosive devices placed along Carter's travel route, but insisted that a sweep of the area turned up no security breaches.

      Maariv quoted sources among Carter's associates as saying that Hamas updated them about the explosives and offered guidance to the American delegation. The newspaper added that an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Gaza was responsible for the attempted assassination. Jihadist websites initially seemed to confirm the Ma'ariv story, including supposed "eyewitness" accounts of the discovery and neutralization of two bombs.

      Treated Like Savages
      Jimmy Carter claimed he had to hold back tears during his visit to Gaza when he saw the rubble of buildings bombed by Israel during its counterterrorist Operation Cast Lead, which ended in January 2009. Carter added that he was also disturbed by the rocket attacks on the Negev city of Sderot.

      However, in an interview with Haaretz newspaper Carter was less even-handed. "To me, the most grievous circumstance is the maltreatment of the people in Gaza, who are literally starving and have no hope at this time," he declared. The "most important" step Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must take, Carter said, was "alleviation of their plight."

      In Carter's view, Israel is responsible for the suffering he allegedly witnessed in Gaza. "They're being treated like savages," Carter declared.

      Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority's Maan news agency, operated out of Bethlehem, reported that Israel was opening two Gaza access crossings on Tuesday. More than 130 truckloads of supplies, including tankers of cooking gas and industrial diesel, are slated to pass through to supply the Gazan agricultural and commercial sectors.

      Carter Carrying Letter for Shalit
      In addition to dialoguing with Hamas, the former president agreed to deliver a letter from the parents of Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit to his Hamas interlocutors. The jihadist Hamas regime has been holding IDF Corporal Shalit captive since June 25, 2006. Carter will meet with Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, upon his return from Gaza.

      A senior leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, reacted to the letter by saying that Hamas would "consider" passing along the Shalit family letter.