Thursday, February 19, 2004


Hamas is making plans to govern the Gaza strip if/when Israel pulls out:

Hamas and other militant groups are discussing the formation of an "emergency" government to take charge in the event of an Israeli evacuation of the Gaza Strip, said a leading Hamas spokesman.

Concerns that Hamas could step into a political vacuum in Gaza were on the agenda of a team of senior U.S. envoys who arrived yesterday to hear details of the Israeli "separation plan." The State Department and National Security Council envoys were scheduled to meet today with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has said that Israel might withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip if there is no progress on the U.S.-sponsored "road map" peace initiative.

Palestinian officials tried yesterday to calm worries about a pullout. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told the Belgian parliament that the Palestinian Authority is ready to take control of Gaza, and Jibril Rajoub, the top security aide to authority leader Yasser Arafat, said he had received assurances from Hamas' leaders that the Islamic fundamentalist group isn't planning a takeover.

But Ghazi Hamid, who as editor of a Hamas-controlled weekly newspaper speaks for the party, told The Washington Times that the existing Palestinian leadership is too weak to cope with the upheaval of an Israeli pullout."The [Palestinian Authority] cannot take responsibility in this situation and we should look to a new leadership that can run the situation," he said.


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