Hamas denies assassination fear


Hamas denied seeking a cease-fire with Israel in order to safeguard its leaders in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that the current lull in Gazan violence was the result of Egyptian-brokered talks sought by Hamas to prevent Israel killing its politicians.

But Hamas, which like Israel denied any truce agreement, shot back Tuesday at Abbas, its Palestinian rival.

“These remarks are nothing but lies aimed at damaging Hamas’ image,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said. “Hamas leaders seek martyrdom and would never bargain over the blood of their people like others do.”

Visiting Ashkelon, a southern Israel port city that came under an unprecedented Hamas rocket barrage during a surge of fighting this month, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the Palestinian Islamist group had suffered serious losses.

“The fact that Hamas stopped launching rockets did not stem from some love of Israel or a spontaneous sense of compassion and sensitivity. They’re also hurting,” Olmert said. “They see that we are hitting them, and they are making their own calculations.”

Olmert told municipal staff in Ashkelon that there could be a resumption in fighting, a prediction that appeared to have been realized when shortly after the prime minister’s departure, a Gazan rocket landed south of the city. No one was hurt and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

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