- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2005

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday predicted a wave of Palestinian attacks that would erase Israel “from the face of the Islamic world,” just hours before a suicide bomber killed five Israelis in a marketplace.

The attack, which wounded about 30, also made a mockery of a major speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who appealed in Ramallah yesterday for an end to attacks that he said were undermining attempts to establish a Palestinian state.

Iran’s firebrand president called for Israel’s destruction at a conference in Tehran titled “The World Without Zionism.”

“There is no doubt that the new wave in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world,” state-run television quoted Mr. Ahmadinejad as telling a group of students. “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury, [while] any [Islamic leader] who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world.”

The appeal by Mr. Abbas for an end to Palestinian violence was brushed off by West Bank militants interviewed by The Washington Times. They said they consider Mr. Abbas too weak a political figure to end the attacks.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the Iranian president and Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar “speak openly about destroying the Jewish state … and it appears the problem with these extremists is that they followed through on their violent declarations with violent actions.”

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the speech “reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran. … It underscores the concerns we have about Iran’s nuclear intentions.”

Hours after Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke, a blast ripped through an open-air market in the northern Israeli city of Hadera, threatening to destabilize a nine-month-old pause in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Witnesses said the explosion, the first in an Israeli city since the army’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last month, threw bodies through the air, overturned produce stalls and shattered nearby windows.

The extremist group Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the bombing, carried out by a 20-year-old Palestinian blacksmith, and said it was retaliation for the killing of one of its top chiefs in the West Bank this week.

The attack was a slight to Mr. Abbas, who had addressed the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah in the morning about the need for law and order in the West Bank and Gaza.

During the address, Mr. Abbas rapped the podium in frustration at hecklers who suggested that members from the militant group Hamas had been justified in launching rocket attacks into Israel last month.

Mr. Abbas said militant groups could not say they are contributing to the relative calm with Israel — which has broad support, according to Palestinian opinion polls — while acting on their own to retaliate for Israel’s military offensives.

“There is no country in the world” where armed groups act on their own in the name of the state, he said.

The remarks, however, did nothing to satisfy Israeli officials. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said on Israeli radio, “The Palestinian Authority talks, but it doesn’t do anything.”

“The Palestinian Authority says it can’t do anything, but that’s not acceptable. The PA knows the identity of the heads of the [militant] organizations, but it’s not doing anything.”

The Palestinian Authority’s plan to disarm militant groups begins with co-opting gunmen associated with its own Fatah party.

The gradualist approach assumes that once Mr. Abbas reins in armed groups loyal to his party, he will have more clout to confront Islamic militant opposition groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told the parliament that the government needs to control Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade by absorbing it into the Palestinian security service. Like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the brigade attacks Israelis with suicide bombers.

Training camps for brigade members are scheduled to begin next month, but the Fatah militias are divided over whether to join the Palestinian security forces.

“I will not be absorbed,” said an Al Aqsa fugitive from Ramallah, who used the pseudonym Abu Ikhmeed.

“Many of us don’t trust the political echelon. They come and talk to us while they talk to Israel as it continues to kill.”

Abu Ikhmeed, however, acknowledged that the majority of brigade members want to join the security forces, but that they could not be expected to obey the orders of Palestinian commanders who are viewed as weak and corrupt.

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