Hamas is to abandon its use of suicide bombers, who have killed almost 300 Israelis, in any future confrontations with Israel, its activists have told The Observer.So now while Israel continues killing Palestinians zionists will still yabber on about how Hamas must be judged by its actions.
The Islamic group, which leads the Palestinian Authority, says, however, that it may resort to other forms of violence if there is no progress towards Palestinian statehood.
Yihiyeh Musa, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said Hamas had moved into a 'new era' which did not require suicide attacks.
'The suicide bombings happened in an exceptional period and they have now stopped,' he said. 'They came to an end as a change of belief.'
As Hamas toned down its rhetoric, Israel increased pressure on the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. Two militants were killed in an airstrike near Gaza City yesterday and five men and a five-year-old boy were killed on Friday night.
Each day hundreds of artillery shells are fired by Israel at northern Gaza. Palestinian factional tension is also high and the price of commodities such as flour and sugar has more than doubled as a result of Israel closing border crossings.
Hamas is keen to gain acceptance from the international community. On Friday the European Union announced it was stopping direct funding of the PA, while the United States has halted aid projects. Hamas needs outside funding of $150m each month to pay PA wages or else the Palestinian economy will collapse.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, warned in an interview published yesterday that any attempt by Israel unilaterally to impose unjust borders on the Palestinians would lead to another war within 10 years.
Hamas was the first Palestinian group to use suicide bombers and its tactics provided inspiration for Islamic insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, the US and Europe. Hamas declared a ceasefire last year and in January was elected to lead the Palestinian Authority. However, despite the ceasefire, Hamas still carries the legacy of its suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.
Musa said Hamas only embarked on suicide bombing campaigns as a response to extreme provocations by Israel, such as the killing of 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1993. It had been a policy of desperation.
According to the Israeli army, since October 2000, Hamas carried out 51 suicide attacks, killing 272 Israelis. Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade carried out 34 each, killing 98 and 80 Israelis respectively. Almost 5,000 people, mostly Palestinians, have been killed over that period.
Many Palestinians believe that suicide bombing damaged their cause, portraying them, not Israel, as the aggressors.
'The occupation government with its outside allies succeeded in labelling all Palestinians as terrorists as a result of the suicide bombings,' said Musa.
Ghazi Hamed, the spokesman for the government, said in future any military action would be restricted to the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel.
Israel and the international community have demanded that Hamas recognise Israel and renounce violence as a precondition to normalising relations but it has so far refused.
The ascent of Hamas to political power has led its leaders to modify its positions but opinion is divided as to whether this is a fundamental change or a tactical expedient. Israel says Hamas remains true to its original aims, as stated in its charter, of destroying the state of Israel.
Mordechai Kedar, a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, said Hamas's rejection of violence was tactical. 'If they succeed in stabilising their state then they will take out their different agenda and start where they left off. For months they have been smuggling long-range missiles. They are preparing for the next phase but for the time being they have more urgent problems,' he said.
Other commentators say Hamas has always had a moderate wing. Khaled Hroub, director of the Cambridge Arab Media Project and the author of Hamas: Political Thought and Practice, said that even among members of Hamas, suicide bombing was controversial.
'If one looks at the conduct of Hamas in 1996 there was huge controversy even in the ranks of Hamas over its bombing campaign. Hroub says Hamas has the potential to make the transition to a purely political organisation. 'The concept of the two-state solution is now the cornerstone of their thinking. I doubt we will see the old Hamas again,' he said.
Hamas now finds itself turning from poacher to gamekeeper. Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade have said they will continue to attack Israel. But Hamas fears that if armed groups are carrying out attacks and firing missiles, it will make its government look weak. Hamas hopes to persuade other groups to stop their attacks but insists it will not be prepared to use force.
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