HAMAS has condemned the latest Zionist decision on Wednesday to declare the Gaza Strip a ‘hostile entity’ and to cut off vital fuel and electricity supplies to it.
The democratically elected Hamas movement slammed the decision as ‘collective punishment’ for the 1.5 million residents of the impoverished territory, one of the world’s most densely populated places.
After Wednesday’s meeting of Israel’s security cabinet, a senior Israeli official said: ‘Following extensive legal consultations, Israel has decided to declare Gaza as a hostile entity, with all the international implications.’
An Israeli official statement said the unanimous decision would affect supplies of electricity and fuel to the impoverished territory, where Hamas seized control three months ago. Israel provides the majority of Gaza’s electricity and fuel.
‘Restrictions will also be placed on the movement of people to and from the Gaza Strip,’ the statement said.
It said the cabinet did not take any immediate decisions to turn off the taps, but that the move ‘clears the way for the government to do so.’
Israeli ministers have for weeks called for a reduction in the supply of basic utilities to Gaza as a ‘price tag’ for the continuing rocket fire from the territory where Hamas defeated forces loyal to president Mahmud Abbas on June 15.
‘Gaza’s electricity switch should be tied to the Qassams’ tails,’ said Yitzak Cohen, a minister without a portfolio from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, referring to the homemade rockets.
The frequent rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip are rarely carried out by Hamas and strike mainly open areas without causing damage, but Israel holds the group responsible, claiming it does nothing to stop them.
Over the past week, Hamas has made concerted efforts to curb the rocket fire.
Last Thursday week it called on militant groups to stop firing rockets at border crossings with Israel.
A spokesman for Hamas, Taher al-Nunu, slammed Wednesday’s decision saying: ‘We completely reject this collective punishment’.
He further suggested Hamas and Israel should resume a truce.
‘We are committed to a mutual ceasefire,’ Nunu said.
‘If they stop the aggression and if the occupation adheres to the truce the Palestinians will as well, provided they (Israel) end the blockade and opens the crossing and allow for economic activity.’
Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai said earlier this week that the government should study the possibility of a truce, but the rocket fire needed to first stop for a period of one to two weeks.
The Zionists’ decision was announced just as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in the region to kickstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks ahead of a US-sponsored conference planned for November.
As the crisis deepens for the imperialists in the Middle East, Rice was also forced to call on the same day for diplomatic action ‘with teeth’ against Iran’s nuclear programme.
Imperialist leaders are meeting today in Washington to discuss a new UN Security Council sanctions resolution in the nuclear standoff as a frustrated US administration bemoans the lack of progress.
Rice said: ‘We believe that the diplomatic track can work but it has to work both with a set of incentives and a set of teeth.’
The United States is working on a new draft sanction resolution which will be discussed at today’s meeting, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Tuesday in Washington.
He said the five UN Security Council permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – along with Germany would discuss the next moves.
Rice is to discuss Iran with counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia at the UN General Assembly in New York on September 28.
The UN Security Council has adopted three resolutions against Iran. Two include sanctions because of Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which it says is purely for civilian energy purposes.
‘We hope that these meetings and any intervening discussions will move the ball forward,’ said McCormack, indicating US frustration. ‘The process hasn’t moved as quickly as we would have liked.’
The French foreign minister pressed the case for tougher sanctions during talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday, but he said after that Russia remain reluctant to back more stringent action.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana have spoken by telephone about continuing talks on the dispute, Iran’s state media reported.
A source in Larijani’s supreme national security council said: ‘They talked about an appropriate time to hold discussions and the final time will be determined at the beginning of October.’
Meanwhile, Iran lashed out again on Wednesday at France’s warning of a possible war against Tehran over its nuclear drive, saying its comments were the result of ‘amateurs’ working in European politics.
Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said France should not ‘repeat the words of those who have hit a dead end,’ in a reference to the United States.
His comments came after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that the world should brace for war against Tehran over its nuclear activities, which the West claims may be a cover for a weapons programme.
‘This issue is not a very important matter,’ Elham told reporters. ‘And it comes from amateurism in politics. Until politicians become professional, they are going to say these kind of comments.
‘We hope that they become professional soon and do not lose historic opportunities.’
‘Our recommendation is that they should not follow the defeated policies of others as this would hurt the credibility of the French,’ he added.
Elham repeated the conviction of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad and other top officials that the United States would not dare attack Iran to punish its defiance in the nuclear standoff.
‘The current conditions are not war conditions and I find it remote that anyone would revert to this foolish option,’ he said.
Iran has repeatedly denied that it is seeking the nuclear bomb, and says its atomic programme is aimed only to generate energy.
Asked if Iran would block the key oil transport channel of the Strait of Hormuz in case of war, he replied: ‘If a condition is imposed on the country, the country will use all its defence capabilities for itself.’
He also argued there was little chance of the United States and other world powers agreeing a third set of UN sanctions against Tehran.
‘These actions are done out of desperation. They will not do something that is useless and I think the possibility of them doing so is remote,’ he said.
Both China and Russia criticised the war talk, calling for more negotiations.
French Defence Minister Herve Morin said on Wednesday that France had no military plan to attack Iran’s nuclear programme, despite warnings by the country’s foreign minister to prepare for possible war.
Morin said that speculation of a looming conflict was ‘fantasy’.
‘Nobody should think for a single instant that we are imagining and preparing military plans concerning Iran,’ Morin said in an interview with Canal Plus television.