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Hamas, Hardline Israelis Denounce Annapolis Peace Conference


Hamas militants and Israeli opposition leaders and their supporters on Monday denounced the Mideast peace conference set to get under way Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem it was another violent day on Monday along the Israeli Gaza Strip border as four Palestinians were killed in two separate incidents with Israeli troops.

About 15,000 Israelis marched through the streets of Jerusalem Monday night, gathering just outside the residence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to denounce the Annapolis peace conference. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the right wing Likud Party, called the peace conference a continuation of one sided concessions.

Meanwhile, Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, who were not invited to the conference, stepped up their criticism of both the Annapolis peace conference and of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who they called a traitor to the Palestinian people.

Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, seized power in Gaza in June, ousting Mr. Abbas' Fatah movement from the territory. Ismail Haniyeh, a leading Hamas figure, said any agreements that come out of the Annapolis conference will be rejected by Palestinians.

Haniyeh says Mr. Abbas has no right to make concessions at Annapolis, and any agreements that come out of the conference will only be binding for those who sign them.

Polls show about 70 percent of Palestinians support the Annapolis conference, but that less than 60 percent believe it will yield tangible results. A recent poll of Israelis found similar results, indicating that about 70 percent support the conference but seven out of 10 Israelis also do not believe the conference will bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

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