Israel is using a new military offensive against Palestinian militants to try to prevent the Islamic group Hamas from taking part in Palestinian elections in January, according to media reports.
Israeli helicopters and artillery continued to bombard Gaza Tuesday despite an announcement by the Palestinian militant factions that they were stopping missile attacks against Israel.
At the same time, hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank, including a large number of Hamas candidates for the parliamentary poll.
Israel's new "Operation First Rain" seems to herald a return to traditional efforts to crush Palestinian militant groups through military means.
With Israel also signalling continued land seizures and Jewish settlement in the West Bank, hopes are now low for a new round of peacemaking in the wake of last month's withdrawal from Gaza.
Citing Israeli security sources, the mass circulation daily Ma'ariv reported yesterday that "to ensure Hamas does not take part in elections, there are plans to continue the large wave of arrests in the territories over the coming days, according to the Age.
Advertisement Advertisement"In addition, the IDF also has in its sights the leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, who are considered targets for assassination," the newspaper reported.
Meanwhile, Hamas released a video of an Israeli businessman whose body was found near the West Bank town of Ramallah. It claimed that Sasson Nuriel, 51, was a spy and was abducted to secure the release of thousands of Palestinian held in Israeli jails. It said it killed the sweets manufacturer to prevent his rescue.
In recent days, Israel has threatened to prevent the Palestinian Authority holding elections unless it bans Hamas candidates. Israel blames Hamas for the bulk of terrorism and resistance in the uprising.