JERUSALEM – Although many leaders in the U.S. and Israel have praised Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas as a reformer willing to make peace, the PA yesterday announced it will mark the “catastrophe” of the Jewish state’s founding with a siren and anti-Israel demonstrations.
The move follows continued Palestinian violations of a cease-fire agreement reached in February between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The head of the PA’s Refugee Department announced it will mourn Israel’s Independence Day, which falls on Sunday according to the secular calendar, with protests and the sounding of a siren to mourn what Palestinians call the “Nakba,” or catastrophe of the formation of Israel on May 15, 1948.
“We will sound a siren for one minute in all our areas to express our grief on this painful occasion,” PA official Zakariya al-Agha said.
Israel uses a siren to mourn fallen soldiers and victims of the Holocaust and celebrates its Independence Day today, the date upon which it falls on the Jewish, lunar calendar.
Al-Agha added the Palestinians are planning a day filled with anti-Israel rallies in the West Bank and Gaza, including ceremonies demanding that any Israeli-Palestinian settlement include the “right of return for Palestinian refugees,” a formula Israel says is code for its destruction by flooding the Jewish state with millions of Arabs thereby changing its population demographics.
Abbas’ Fatah party, together with Hamas and other Palestinian factions and terror groups, issued a statement yesterday rejecting peace with Israel unless it included the “return” of Palestinian “refugees.”
“We call on our masses in the homeland and the diaspora to mark this painful occasion by making it clear to the world and the occupation that the issue of the refugees is the core of the conflict and that there would be no solution without their return home in line with United Nations resolution 194,” said the statement.
The moves come as Palestinian groups continue to violate a cease fire agreement signed in Egypt Feb. 8.
Palestinian violations the past two weeks include eight Qassam rockets fired into Jewish communities in Gaza and Sderot, several dozen mortars targeting Gaza’s Gush Katif Jewish neighborhood, 43 shooting incidents and five attempted bombings against Israeli Defense Forces outposts, one suicide bombing and 40 Molotov cocktails thrown at Israeli citizens.
Security sources also report Palestinians have been smuggling heavy weaponry from Egypt into Gaza’s Rafah region with the assistance of Hamas and Palestinian intelligence.
Since February, there have been approximately 30 incidents of smuggling from Egypt’s Sinai region, some to the Gaza Strip and some to the Negev, sources say. In that time, weapons brought into Gaza include approximately 1,000 rifles, dozens of RPG launchers, about 150 handguns, five anti-aircraft shoulder missiles and tens of thousands of bullets.
“The weapons are being smuggled with the help of Hamas and Palestinian forces through tunnels in Rafah,” Reuven Erlich, director of Israel’s Center for Special Studies, told WND. “The Palestinian Authority claims to have shut down the tunnels, and they did close some, but others are open, and they are actively helping the smugglers.”
In spite of the continued violence and incitement, both Israeli and American leaders have hailed Abbas as a reformist they can work with.
U.S. President George Bush called Abbas’ election last January a “historic” step toward a Palestinian state, adding, “The United States stands ready to help the Palestinian people realize their aspirations.”
Last week, U.S. State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli praised Abbas for bringing “energy and activism” to the Middle East peace process.
Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel is prepared to make “all the necessary adjustments” to work with Abbas, who he called a “strong leader.”