GAZA (Reuters) - A Palestinian armed group accused the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers on Saturday of preventing its men from firing rockets at Israel, a sensitive allegation for the Islamist faction as it pursues mediated deals with the Jewish state.
Hamas police intercepted Islamic Jihad rocket crews on three occasions over the past month, a group official said, foiling their bids to avenge Israeli fire on Gaza and to show solidarity with Palestinian protests over a contested Jerusalem shrine.
“We have been prevented from launching attacks,” the Islamic Jihad official told Reuters, adding that Hamas had also scrapped a planned rally by the group and arrested two of its members in a dispute over control of a mosque in northern Gaza.
Hamas, which fired hundreds of short-range rockets into Israel during a December-January war but has since privately called for the salvoes to stop for the sake of repairing Gaza’s ravaged infrastructure, denied Islamic Jihad’s allegation.
“There is no truce with the occupation (Israel), whose crimes against our people are continuing, and therefore we have not and we will not block resistance,” said Ehab Al-Ghsain, spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry.
Islamic Jihad’s complaint could not be independently verified -- not least as, by its own account, its rocketeers had been only briefly detained by Hamas police.
Gazan rocket attacks on Israel have tapered off since the war, and Israeli defense officials have credited Hamas, saying it sought calm in order both to avoid another conflict and to improve its standing among Palestinians and abroad.
Like Islamic Jihad, Hamas is deeply conservative and rules out coexistence with Israel, a position that helped trigger a schism with U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds sway in the West Bank and wants a Middle East peace pact.
Yet Hamas has signaled willingness to enter a long-term truce with Israel and, through Egypt and Germany, is negotiating the exchange of an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for hundreds of jailed Palestinians.
Egypt is also trying to mend the rift between Hamas and the secular Fatah faction of Abbas, who has often accused the Islamists of jeopardizing Palestinian national aspirations with “pointless” violence against Israel.
Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Robin Pomeroy
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