Hamas will step up attacks against Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after a US-hosted peace conference next week, an official said in a statement on its website Saturday.â€œThe period that will follow the Annapolis conference will witness an increase of the resistance against the Zionist occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,â€ said Mussa Abu Marzuq, top aide to Hamas supremo Khaled Mishaal.
â€œThe Annapolis conference has two objectives: to help shore up [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert after his defeat in the south of Lebanon and secondly to cover up for American plans of a war against Iran,â€ he said.
Israel was locked in a devastating war with Lebanonâ€™s pro-Syrian Shiite Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon last year. Tuesdayâ€™s conference in Annapolis, Maryland, is aimed at reviving Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations that have been frozen for seven years.
Hamas insists that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has no mandate to negotiate on behalf of all the Palestinians and Abu Marzuq said that Olmert is politically unable to offer concessions to the Palestinians.
Abu Marzouq, who is based in Syria along with Mishaal, urged Palestinians to voice their rejection of the conference by organising demonstrations. The Islamist group has said it will hold on Monday in the Gaza Strip a counter-conference to the US meeting and urged Arab countries planning to attend the peace conference not to normalise ties with Israel.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June in deadly battles with Abbasâ€™ secular Fateh faction, and is shunned by the European Union, Israel and the United States as a terror group.