Israelis braced for new wave of Hamas attacks
ISRAEL is bracing itself for a new wave of attacks after Hamas warned that preparations for fresh violence had reached the "highest level" in response to the announcement of continued Middle East peace talks.
Hamas said it had met 12 other militant Palestinian groups in Gaza to plan a violent response as Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, met in Washington for the first face-to-face talks in 20 months.
A spokesman for the group's military wing said no options had been ruled out and that suicide bombings could be used to target Israel in an attempt to torpedo the talks.
Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for the Hamas military wing, said: "We declare that the actions of resistance have gone into a new and advanced stage of co-operation in the field at the highest levels in preparation for more effective attacks against the enemy.
"The useless round of negotiations provides a cover for the Zionist aggression against our people."
Israeli security forces have been placed on high alert and have set up new checkpoints on roads in the West Bank.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, said yesterday the peace talks were "doomed to fail" and that the people of the region could destroy Israel. During a pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran, Mr Ahmadinejad said: "The nations of the region are able to eliminate the Zionist regime from the face of the earth."
He added that the Israeli "regime has no future. Its life has come to an end". Both Hamas and Mr Ahmadinejad said that Mr Abbas had no authority to participate in peace talks on behalf of Palestinians.
Hamas, which seized control of Gaza from Mr Abbas's Palestinian authority in 2007, claimed responsibility for shooting at Israeli cars in the West Bank this week.
Tuesday's shooting, in which four settlers were killed, prompted a security crackdown by Mr Abbas's security forces across the West Bank.
Hundreds of Hamas activists were detained and two suspects linked to the second attack, in which two settlers were wounded, have been arrested.
General Adnan Damiri, a Palestinian security forces spokesman, said he feared more violence from Hamas.
"As the negotiations progress, if they see it stands a chance, Hamas will attempt to step up the attacks," he said.
Mr Netanyahu also faces domestic opposition to peace contacts. Right-wing settlers this week resumed building at a number of locations in the West Bank even though a 10-month moratorium declared by the government does not expire until later this month. (© Daily Telegraph, London)