19 June 2002
A top official of Hamas, the terror group claiming responsibility for Tuesday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 19 Israelis, has rejected the idea of an interim Palestinian state, which is said to be a main provision of President Bush's much anticipated peace plan for the Middle East. The Hamas official said the only way suicide attacks will end is if Israel completely withdraws from Palestinian territories.
Ossama Abou Hemdan is the top Hamas official in Lebanon. Mr. Hemdan, whose group is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations, said Tuesday's suicide attack in Jerusalem was only the latest battle in a long war. Mr. Hemdan, in a telephone interview from Beirut, says suicide bombings will continue, in his words, as long as Israel occupies Palestinian territories and refuses to negotiate in good faith.
Mr. Hemdan, whose organization refuses to recognize Israel's existence, said however, Israel must negotiate the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper.
Those issues and others are expected to be addressed in a Middle East peace plan being drawn up by the White House. President Bush is expected to reveal the plan soon. It is widely believed the Bush plan may, among other things, propose the creation of a provisional Palestinian state.
But Mr. Hemdan doubts the plan, if it does call for a provisional Palestinian state, will accomplish anything. He said "without full statehood, the fight will continue."
He added, "If they want to talk about a Palestinian state they have to talk about a full, independent Palestinian state which can decide if the Palestinians want to be related to Israel, have connections with Israel or not. We don't accept a state which is controlled by Israeli terms. We want to have a real state."
On Tuesday a meeting was held in Beirut among the leaders of Hamas and two other militant groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hezbollah. Like Hamas, these groups are also on the State Department list of terrorist groups. Lebanese officials were also at the meeting, including parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who, like the other members of the meetings, endorsed Tuesday's terrorist attack.
Though the Lebanese government has pledged itself to the U.S. war on terrorism, it considers groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas to be freedom fighters not terrorists.
Israeli Foreign Ministry official Noam Katz condemned the meeting in Beirut, saying "it's unfortunate that the Lebanese government hosts terror organizations within its borders that are responsible for despicable acts against innocent civilians."