Gaza rocket attack
JERUSALEM – Iran ordered Hamas to fire the massive barrage of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip at Jewish population zones in recent days, according to a senior Israeli security official.
The official said Iran was concerned Hamas was considering moderating its position during ongoing talks to form a government with the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority.
“Incredibly, the attacks against Israel have little to do with Hamas’ confrontation with Jews and was more about internal political posturing,” the official said.
Ironically, the allegedly Iranian-ordered rocket and mortar barrage over this past weekend came as the Jewish state was celebrating Purim. The holiday commemorates the events in the Book of Esther – when the Jews were saved from the genocidal intentions of the viceroy of Persia, which is modern-day Iran.
The rocket onslaught also came after Israel seized a ship carrying a large quantity of weaponry the Jewish state says originated in Iran and was intended for Hamas in Gaza.
“The source of the weapons is Iran, which is trying to arm Gaza,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said March 15, the day Israel intercepted the ship.
Hamas this past weekend fired more than 50 mortars and rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. On Sunday, it launched a long-range Grad rocket at the strategic port city of Ashkelon, which contains a power plant that supplied most of Gaza’s electricity.
In an unusual move, Hamas claimed direct responsibility for 10 of the rockets. Usually, Hamas claims third-party groups in Gaza are behind such attacks.
Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for 10 of Saturday’s rockets, an unusual move after a long period in which it had let other smaller militant groups do its bidding.
U.S. funds to pay Hamas salaries?
WND reported last week the Palestinian Authority has quietly offered to place tens of thousands of Hamas security forces on its payroll if Hamas joins in a unity government.
The PA is funded in large part by the U.S. and Europe.
Earlier this month, WND reported the PA has been engaged in an intense effort to convince the Hamas terrorist organization to join it in a new unity government.
According to a senior PA official, the PA has been sending mediators to Hamas in an effort to persuade it into a unity deal.
Now, WND has learned the PA has engaged in intense marathon talks with Hamas the past three days. As part of its latest list of incentives, the PA has offered to place between 15,000 and 20,000 of Hamas’ forces in Gaza on official PA salary if Hamas joins in a unity government.
The technical explanation being given by PA sources is that the Palestinian leadership feels it better to maintain one major financial apparatus to pay all security forces, instead of having a separate governmental system in Gaza run by Hamas.
Monthly salaries of Hamas security officers in Gaza typically range from between 800 and 1,500 shekel, or between $244 and $421.
Aside from an accommodation on salaries, the PA is ready to give Hamas full official security control of the Gaza Strip if the Islamist organization agrees to form a unity government, according to a PA official who previously spoke to WND.
In 2007, Hamas seized Gaza from the PA and since then has maintained a de facto government in the territory. While Hamas largely controls Gaza, the PA still has militias there that are influential in key areas.
The PA official, who spoke to WND on condition of anonymity, said that Hamas would not need to recognize the existence of Israel as a precondition for entering a new unity government.
He said Hamas is being asked to commit itself to previous Palestinian agreements, which would include those signed with Israel, without actually recognizing the specific agreements with Israel. The PA official admitted the request appears to be contradictory.
The PA official told WND that recent developments in Egypt and the greater Arab world force the Palestinian leadership to take a public position against the U.S.
“The Obama administration’s abandonment of [U.S. ally President Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt sent a big sign to the moderate Arab world that we can no longer depend on American support,” said the official.
The official further argued that popular sentiment on the Palestinian streets dictates the PA must orient itself away from the U.S.
Indeed, the PA’s official media outlets have been railing against the U.S. in recent weeks, with 28 PA municipalities even announcing boycotts of “the American consulate, its diplomats, and the American institutions in Jerusalem,” according to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch.
In direct response to the protests that already toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, the PA two weeks ago announced it finally will hold long-delayed parliamentary and presidential elections in September.