Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (right) while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton watches on. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Middle East

World applauds Israel-Palestine talks – but Hamas promises retaliation

International leaders welcome further Middle Eastern talks, but the militant wing of Hamas vows to continue attacks.

THE PARAMILITARY WING of the Hamas party, along with ten other groups, insisted yesterday that they would continue their armed campaign on Israel, while international leaders applauded the two countries’ decision to continue face-to-face talks.

The discussions, being led by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are the first direct meetings between leaders from the two sides in 20 months, and hope to resolve the six-decade conflict within a year.

Face-to-face talks between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will resume in two weeks at a yet-to-be-decided Middle Eastern location.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for Palestine and Israel to work together to reduce tension between their peoples, while the talks were also welcomed by the EU’s foreign policy commissioner Catherine Ashton and European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek.

The talks have also been commended by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, British foreign minister William Hague, and China’s foreign minister Jianh Yu.

The talks had been threatened by Tuesday’s attack by a Hamas gunman in the West Bank, which killed four Israelis. But where previously such attacks would have proven enough to derail the talks, on this occasion they seemed to galvanise the intentions of Netanyahu and Abbas to reach a conclusion.

Yesterday after a meeting of almost a dozen Palestinian militant groups, the groups threatened to continue terrorist attacks in order to ‘resist’ what they perceived as Israeli aggression. One Hamas representative spoke of “responding to Israel with iron and fire”.

US Senator George Mitchell, overseeing the talks alongside Clinton, said both parties had agreed “that a logical next step would be to begin working on achieving a framework agreement for permanent status” Mr. Mitchell said.