Radical Palestinian group kills worker in Israel during Ashton trip

Mar 18th, 2010 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

From Times Online
March 18, 2010

Radical Palestinian group kills worker in Israel during Ashton trip

The Thai kibbutz worker killed in the rocket attack

A radical Palestinian group with suspected ties to al-Qaeda killed a worker in southern Israel today when it fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip, just as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the EU’s deputy foreign policy chief, was visiting the blockaded territory.

The rocket killed a Thai immigrant worker at a farming community just across the heavily guarded Gaza border, Israeli medical officials said.

Lady Ashton was visiting UN facilities in the coastal enclave, which was hard hit in a war 14 months ago when Israel launched a major offensive to try to stamp out constant rocket fire by Hamas, who rule the territory, and other militant groups.

Despite the fragile ceasefire that resulted from the conflict, in which around 1,400 Palestinians and a dozen Israelis were killed, there has been sporadic rocket fire from Gaza, although usually without causing any casualties.

The claim by the Ansar al-Sunna brigades was significant, as aid workers and analysts have been warning that the dire conditions in Gaza – under tight Israeli and Egyptian blockade for three years, and devastated by the war – were spawning a new generation of even more radical Islamists with ties to al-Qaeda.

Hamas, which Israel and the West classify as a terrorist group, is considered by the new breed of radicals to be too moderate and not enforce strict enough Islamic codes.

Calling themselves “salafists”, the groups, which are mostly based in the southern Gaza Strip, close to the Egyptian border, adhere to a strict philosophy that life should be lived as it was in the time of the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century.

Hamas, whose political goals are confined to fighting Israel rather than reconstructing the lost Islamic caliphate across the Middle East, sees the radicals as a serious threat to their rule and has fought bloody battles with them in the past year.

The rocket attack – the third in 24 hours — underscored the difficulties faced by Lady Ashton, who arrived in Israel in the middle of a serious diplomatic dispute between the Jewish state and the United States, its main backer.

The row erupted after Israel announced the construction of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their own, just as US Vice President Joe Biden arrived for a visit to try and restart indirect peace talks.

Lady Ashton, on a whistlestop tour of the region, appeared to have little more success than the Americans in persuading Israel to halt the controversial construction.

After meeting with her the evening before her Gaza trip, Avigdor Lieberman, the right-wing Israeli foreign minister, told a joint press conference it was “unreasonable” for the international community to expect a halt to Jewish construction anywhere in Jerusalem, which Israel also claims as its undivided capital.

Lady Ashton was visiting a UN-run girls’ school in the Jabalya refugee camp when the rocket was fired. “I condemn any kind of violence, we need to move forward to get the peace process moving toward a successful resolution,” said the EU envoy, who will meet UN officials to discuss the protracted Israeli blockade of Gaza, but will not meet any Hamas officials.

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