Atul Aneja

Breakdown of truce and emergence of a new cycle of violence

DUBAI: Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas are set on a collision course following the breakdown of the truce between them and the emergence of a new cycle of violence.

Israeli air strikes on Sunday killed two Hamas militants, while they were preparing to launch rockets. Retracting from its ceasefire, Hamas has resumed firing rockets at Israel.

The killing of eight persons, including seven members of a family, at a Gaza beach by Israeli shelling has been a turning point, which caused the Hamas to abandon its 18-month truce with Israel. "Our answer to the Israeli crimes and massacres will continue. It will not only be rockets," said Abu Ubeideh, a spokesman for the Hamas armed wing. Asked about the possibility of a resumption of a suicide attacks inside Israel, the spokesman said, "All options are open."

Olmert regret killings

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has regretted the killings of civilians in the Gaza beach attack. The incident has embarrassed Mr. Olmert as he prepared for his first visit to Europe after becoming Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Hamas, which has formed Government after winning the January parliamentary elections, is also caught up in another political crisis involving President Mahmoud Abbas. Unlike Hamas, Mr. Abbas belongs to Fatah an organisation nurtured by the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

The Hamas has so far declined to recognise the state of Israel or to disarm. Israel has insisted that it would by-pass talks and would settle its territorial boundaries with a future Palestinian state, unilaterally, unless the Hamas changed its stance.

Keen to resume talks, Mr. Abbas has been trying to implement a plan where Hamas would recognise Israel through the backdoor. On Saturday, he announced that a referendum where Palestinians would vote on the question of co-existence with Israel would be held on July 26. Hamas, however, has firmly rejected Mr. Abbas' move. A meeting between the Palestinian President and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, who belongs to Hamas, did not produce any agreement.

"We failed to agree on the referendum question and we stressed to the President the dangers of this consultation for Palestinian unity," Mr. Haniya said after the marathon meeting.