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      Hamas Denies Mofaz´s Optimistic Prognosis

      Israel's Defense Minister announced an Abu Mazen ceasefire with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but the terrorists rushed to deny this. Arab terrorists fired three rockets at Israeli targets yesterday.
      First Publish: 1/24/2005, 12:40 PM / Last Update: 1/23/2005, 11:23 AM

      Shortly after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's remarks were broadcast this morning, a Hamas spokesman said in response, "What Mofaz said is not correct. We will agree to relative quiet only if Israel stops its aggression in the Palestinian cities." Army Radio reported that the spokesman said, "There is no agreement for a hudna [temporary ceasefire]... We are prepared to seriously consider stopping our actions in exchange for an Israeli promise and an international promise."

      AlBawaba.com reported that senior Islamic Jihad official Mohammed al-Hindi said yesterday that Israel would have to agree to conditions such as freeing Arab prisoners and stopping attacks and raids, before it would consider halting attacks against Israelis. "We have said clearly and frankly that no cards can be given free for the Zionist enemy," he said. "Sharon wants to withdraw from Gaza in calm. If he wants calm, he has to pay the price."

      In two interviews this morning with Israeli media, Mofaz said that Abu Mazen has neutralized the terrorist threat by incorporating Hamas into his government, and that this is acceptable to Israel. He said that the agreement is for approximately 30 days, and that Israel must play its part.

      Although it was widely reported that terrorism had dropped to "practically zero" over the weekend, several rocket attacks against Israeli targets yesterday were overlooked. A Kassam rocket was fired at N'vei Dekalim last night (Saturday), a mortar shell hit the community of Gadid, and a window in a Kfar Darom house exploded as a result of shooting towards the town. Finally, an anti-tank rocket was fired at an IDF position near Ganei Tal last night; no one was hurt, and IDF soldiers returned fire.

      Palestinian Authority chief Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) is reported to have instructed the nearly 3,000 paramilitary policemen he deployed in Gaza to shoot at anyone they see trying to fire rockets at Israeli targets. Just last Monday he told PA journalists that he did not intend to use force against Hamas and that he does not want a "civil war." Some commentators have said that Abu Mazen now sees the continuing terrorism as an effort not only to kill Jews but also to unseat him from power.

      Most Israeli politicians have expressed satisfaction at Abu Mazen's success in reducing terrorist attacks over the past three days, but emphasize that they are still quite wary. It has been widely noted that the drop in terrorism could well be connected to the Moslem holiday of this weekend, and that the true test will begin later this week.

      In addition, a temporary ceasefire has been tried before, and merely gave the terrorists time to regroup and rearm. National Security Council chief Giora Eiland said that Israel expects Abu Mazen to take weapons away from terrorist groups. "Israel is not interested in a civil war among Arabs," Eiland said, "but expects to see a serious change and real steps to stop the ability of terrorists."

      It is to be noted leader that the leader of the Fatah movement, the main component of the PLO, said that the Palestinians' long-term goal is to replace Israel with a state of their own. A WorldTribune.com report of last month stated that Fatah chief Farouk Khaddoumi said that in the first stage, Khaddoumi said a PA state would be accepted alongside Israel, but that in a later stage, the Palestinians would seek to eliminate the Jewish state altogether.

      U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns will visit Israel soon to discuss chances for renewed Israeli-PA negotiations. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, GSS head Avi Dichter and Prime Minister Sharon's advisor Dov Weisglass will visit Washington this week, and plan to urge the Americans to act against Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. They will say these three represent the true threat to stability in the area, including to Abu Mazen.