GAZA CITY (AFP) – The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat urged Hamas to carry out attacks inside Israel when he felt peace talks had failed, a senior Hamas leader said in remarks published on Wednesday.
“Arafat signalled to the Hamas movement to carry out a number of military operations in the heart of the Jewish state when he felt that the negotiations with the occupation government had failed,” Mahmud Zahar said during a meeting with Hamas MPs on Tuesday, according to the Hamas-linked Falasteen newspaper.
He spoke on the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which engulfed the occupied territories months after the collapse of the 2000 Camp David peace talks.
His comments come as renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians again appear to be on the verge of collapse in the face of a dispute over Israeli settlements. Hamas opposes the new talks.
At the height of the uprising in 2002 Palestinian militants launched scores of suicide bombings in Israeli cities as Israel frequently carried out large-scale military incursions across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Arafat had always insisted that the uprising was a spontaneous reaction to the Israeli occupation and that he had no control over Hamas, the long-time rivals of his secular Fatah movement.
He publicly condemned attacks targeting civilians inside Israel, including those carried out by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah.
Arafat died of mysterious causes in a Paris hospital in November 2004 after having been besieged in his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah for nearly three years.
His successor, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, always opposed the militarisation of the uprising and moved to end it when he assumed power.
An Israeli-Palestinian summit in February 2005 was widely seen as signalling the end of the uprising, although the violence continued. Some 4,700 people had been killed by then, around 80 percent of them Palestinians.