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Hamas Rejects Call to End Armed Attacks on Israelis - 2003-06-04

The militant Islamic group Hamas says it will not lay down its arms despite an appeal from Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. The organization was reacting to Mr. Abbas' statement, at the Mideast summit in Aqaba, Jordan, calling for an end to armed attacks against Israelis. And there also was strong opposition from Israelis to a promise by Prime Minister Sharon to remove some Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas says it will stand by the Palestinian people and by the gun.

A spokesman for Hamas, Abdel Aziz-Rantisi, says that the organization will never lay down its arms until it liberates the whole of Palestine.

Mr. Rantisi's statement is in line with the charter of Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel, in favor of a republic governed by Islamic law.

But his remarks were in sharp contrast to the conciliatory comments from Hamas before the summit in Aqaba, Jordan between the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers and President Bush.

Hours before the meeting got under way, Hamas official Ismail Abu Shanab said his organization was ready for a ceasefire if Israel agreed to withdraw its troops from Palestinian self-rule areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

For its part, Islamic Jihad, an organization with similar aims as Hamas, said it would continue what it called its resistance as long as Israeli forces continue to occupy Palestinian areas.

Both Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, frequently carry out suicide bombings.

Mr. Abbas has appealed to the groups to stop such attacks in order to give a chance for negotiations with Israel to succeed.

Meanwhile, Israeli opponents of the "road map to peace" plan in the Middle East are gathering in Jerusalem for what they hope will be a massive demonstration.

Organized by the Yesha Council for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the rally is appealing to all Israelis to stop the government from removing some settlements and permitting the establishment of a Palestinian state.

For years, Mr. Sharon has been a strong supporter of the settlers, but Shaul Goldstein, a leader of Yesha Council, said of him Wednesday, "He lost his leadership. He's lost his way."