Demonstrator with a clear message marching in London last May
Demonstrator with a clear message marching in London last May

A HAMAS leader Khalil Abu-Layla said on Saturday that the Palestinians are not pinning any hopes on a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Palestinian territories and Israel.

In a televised interview with Ramattan, Abu-Layla said: ‘This visit brings with it some projects through which the United States is allegedly seeking to establish both a Palestinian and an Israeli state.

‘This is merely a diversionary tactic to enable the United States to implement its plans in other Arab countries.’

He added: ‘The US Administration is exerting pressure on the Palestinian Presidency to make concessions.’

Regarding the Arab Summit in Riyadh, Abu-Layla stressed that the Arabs should have a unified position on lifting the siege off the Palestinian people.

In a televised interview with Ramattan, Fatah spokesman Mahir Miqdad also commented on the Rice visit taking a more optimistic line.

He said: ‘Rice’s visit to the region is part of a diplomatic tour that is related to the formation of the national unity government and which is intended to enable the PNA to take the political initiative.’

Regarding the Arab Summit, he said: ‘This is a special summit which should result in a positive, unified Arab position in order to lift the siege off the Palestinian people.’

Dr Salah al-Bardawil, head of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that the visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region ‘aims to poison the atmosphere and hinder certain Palestinian achievements.’

In a statement to the Palestinian Information Centre also on Saturday, Al-Bardawil commented on Rice’s Middle East tour, saying that her repeated visits ‘bear no positive results’.

He said: ‘Rice’s visits seek to create a divide in Palestinian domestic relations and are an attempt at covering up Zionist crimes, procrastination, and killing the Palestinian cause until the term of the current US Administration ends.’

He noted: ‘This visit is a new attempt to drive a wedge between the Palestinians and create confusion in the Palestinian arena.’

He added: ‘Rice, by means of her visits, is attempting to cover up the US fiasco in Iraq and to reassure the Zionist entity that the United States remains true to its word.

‘In addition, she is attempting to find ways to sow confusion among the Palestinians in order to keep them attuned to US policy.’

Islamic Jihad has issued a special statement on the Rice visit.

‘The United States has recently been engaged in an intensive activity in the Middle East.

‘US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the region and met with Palestinian and Arab officials.

‘That followed years of inaction that began when the administration of US President George Bush came to power and decided not to intervene politically and to give the Zionist entity a green light to practice all forms of aggression against the Palestinian people.

‘The question that must be asked is: What is the secret behind Rice’s successive visits, which will take the form of shuttle trips among the leaders of the region next week?

‘There is no doubt that Rice’s visit comes amid new developments, including the formation of the national unity government and the American talk about the activation of the peace process.

‘But there is a clear contradiction here: If the Americans continue to boycott the new government and the Zionist entity reduces its contacts with the chairman of the Palestinian National Authority to a minimum and limits these contacts to livelihood issues, how can the peace process be activated under this complicated equation?

‘Also, the state of weakness that Zionist Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is experiencing and the big possibility of his resignation or dismissal after the publication of the Winograd Commission’s report make the talk about political activity within the so-called peace process mere words without essence.

‘If you add to this the fact that the Zionist government refuses to deal with any Palestinian right and demands that the right of return be abolished and totally removed from the Arab peace plan, you will conclude that Rice’s visit takes a dimension other than the Palestinian dimension.

‘Rice comes to the region amid the exacerbation of the crisis of the American occupation in Iraq and the failure of the Baghdad security plan.

‘She is trying to build an Arab position that could offer her a lifeline out of the Iraqi quagmire. The proof is her repeated meetings with six Arab foreign ministers and her talk about an effective Arab role in Iraq and about the need to confront what she calls the Iranian nuclear challenge and her attempt to frighten the Arabs with this Iranian nuclear activity when the concern is essentially a Zionist-American concern because the Americans and the Zionists want to prevent the rise in the region of any power rejecting the American-Zionist plans and possessing quality weapons.

‘Nothing but evil comes from Rice. She basically serves the objectives and the security of the Zionist entity amid growing concern over its domestic situation and dissatisfaction with Ehud Olmert as his domestic crises deepen and as Rice wagers on Tzipi Livni to succeed him.

‘But Rice will also try, as she did during all her previous visits, to sow the seeds of discord among the Palestinians under the headline of dealing only with the moderate ministers in the new government.’

Meanwhile, Information minister, Doctor Mustafa Barghuthi, has condemned the Israeli soldiers’ assault on Palestinian citizen, 19-year-old Mohammad Jabali, at Huwwara barrier on Saturday.

In a statement issued by the minister he said, ‘What the cameras showed, when the soldiers assaulted the man, is part of a series of assaults, reflecting the worst and most ugly acts which Palestinian citizens face at the hands of Israeli soldiers at the barriers.’

Barghuthi also commented on the violent and brutal treatment of a Palestinian woman, Yusra Rabay’ah, from the southern West Bank town of Al-Ubaydiyya.

The minister of information was talking during a press conference at the ministry’s headquarters.

Two video recordings were shown in the press conference documenting the two assaults against Palestinian citizens.

In one incident, a woman from Al-Ubaydiyya was bitten by an Israeli police dog, while in the other incident; the Israeli soldiers were filmed brutally beating a Palestinian man from Huwwara.

Doctor Barghuthi explained that these incidents are part of the daily practices of the Israeli soldiers and not individual cases.

Orders to carry out such measures are given by higher Israeli leaders including the prime minister, and the minister of defence.

He added that the soldiers are immune to any interrogation, and that they have the green light to undertake criminal acts against the Palestinian people, paying no heed to the international laws and human rights.

Barghuthi added that there are 528 fixed checkpoints in the West Bank and 455 temporary barriers.

He pointed out that 61 women were forced to give birth at these barriers because they couldn’t reach the hospitals.

36 of the babies born at these barriers died. Barghuthi stated that this is a breach of international agreements and the fourth Geneva Convention, in addition to international humanitarian law.

Barghuthi affirmed that such practices reflect racial discrimination which the Israeli government adopts against the Palestinian people under occupation.

He highlighted that former American president, Jimmy Carter, depicted the Israeli segregation as being worse than apartheid South Africa.

Barghuthi called on the international community to immediately intervene to stop the Israeli attacks and cease the ‘apartheid policy’ against Palestinians.