Israel declares all out war against Hamas
* Says Army ready to enter Gaza
* Wants Arafat expelled by year end
JERUSALEM: Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Tuesday the government was to consider the expulsion of besieged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as he was obstructing the peace process.
“Arafat is a very major obstacle for (Palestinian prime minister) Mahmud Abbas and for the whole political process,” Mofaz told military radio.
“We made a historic mistake by not expelling him two years ago but we are going to address this issue in the short-term, without doubt before the end of the year.”
Mofaz said Israeli ground forces were ready to take on Hamas fighters in their Gaza Strip stronghold after declaring all-out war on the radical Islamic movement.
The defence minister said Israel was ready to “increase the pressure” against Hamas after six air strikes in 13 days against the hardline group in Gaza.
“If we need to increase the pressure on Hamas in Gaza, we know what to do,” Mofaz said.
“We have opened a new chapter in the battle against the terrorist organisations. As the Palestinian Authority is not acting against these organisations we will take care of them.”
One Hamas activist was killed in an Israeli helicopter strike in Gaza City on Monday afternoon and 17 people were injured.
Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigade, condemned the “ugly crime” and vowed swift revenge.
“Our answer will be very soon,” the group said in a statement. Israeli troops shot dead a militant from the radical Islamic Jihad movement Tuesday at a checkpoint in the West Bank town of Jenin, Israeli military and Jihad sources said.
Military sources said Abdul Qadr Dahami had been shot dead after he aimed a pistol at troops after his taxi was pulled over for a routine stop at Fahameh to the south-west of Jenin.
Palestinian medical sources also said Tuesday that a 10-year-old girl who was injured in a botched Israeli air strike in northern Gaza a week ago had died of her injuries.
Five Palestinians were arrested overnight in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Hebron, an army spokesman said.
Prime Minster Ariel Sharon cancelled his planned meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Monday night “for health reasons”, European diplomatic sources said.
Sharon’s office told the Europeans the premier was “unwell and has cancelled all his late Monday meetings”, European diplomatic sources said. —AFP