Tags: Palestinians | Mark | Years | Since | 'Six | Days | War'

Palestinians Mark 40 Years Since 'Six Days War'

Tuesday, 05 June 2007 12:00 AM

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Marking the 40th anniversary of what he called the Arabs' "great defeat" by Israel in six days of war, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assured his people on Tuesday that statehood was within reach.

Yet new fighting between his secular Fatah faction and Islamist Hamas fighters and Abbas's failure so far to secure a ceasefire between Palestinian militants and Israel highlighted some of the obstacles on the road to an elusive peace.

"On the internal front, the cause of everybody's concern is what is called the security chaos, or more precisely, standing on the brink of a civil war," Abbas said in a televised speech.

In the Gaza Strip, Fatah and Hamas forces fought a three-hour gunbattle near the Karni commercial crossing, the most serious flare-up in factional fighting in two weeks. At least one member of Abbas's Presidential Guard was hurt.

Palestinians gathered in Ramallah's main square, down the road from an Israeli army checkpoint at the entrance to the main city in the occupied West Bank, for a rally to mark the "naksa" or setback of 1967.

"We enter another year, four decades after the June war, in which the rest of the land of Palestine was occupied, in addition to key Egyptian and Syrian lands," Abbas said.

The 1967 war, which began on June 5 with Israeli air raids that destroyed the bulk of the Egyptian air force, ended with Israel in control of the West Bank -- including Arab East Jerusalem -- the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai desert.

"Since that black date, our people and nation are paying a dear price for a great defeat that ... added complications to the Israeli-Arab conflict, at the heart of which is the Palestinian problem and the rights of our people," Abbas said.

"Despite all the difficulties, we are taking steps towards statehood, a target that is getting closer," he said in Ramallah, the seat of a Palestinian Authority set up by interim peace deals with Israel.

"A few days from now I will be meeting the Israeli prime minister on Palestinian Authority land," Abbas said about talks with Ehud Olmert.

"If the Israelis prefer to limit the agenda to the bare minimum, it is my duty as the elected president of the Palestinian people, to discuss strongly all issues and to press that they be placed on the agenda," he said.

Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres, calling the 1967 conflict a war his country had been forced into by hostile Arab states, told Reuters: "We wouldn't like to see the Palestinians occupied ... We are ready to negotiate straight away, fully sincerely and responsibly."

Israeli officials, however, have said there could be no substantive talks at present with the Palestinians on statehood, noting their government is led by Hamas, a militant group that has rejected Western demands to recognize the Jewish state.

Abbas, who formed a coalition with Hamas in March, has proposed a new truce between militants and Israel following a surge in rocket attacks from Gaza three weeks ago and Israeli air raids to try to curb the launchings.

Under the plan, the ceasefire would first go into effect in the Gaza Strip and then be extended to the West Bank, where Israel frequently carries out raids to detain militants.

Hamas has rebuffed the proposal, saying a truce must begin simultaneously in both territories. Israel has also rejected the plan, saying its air strikes had led to a drop in rocket attacks and voicing fear Hamas would use a lull to rearm.

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RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Marking the 40th anniversary of what he called the Arabs' "great defeat" by Israel in six days of war, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assured his people on Tuesday that statehood was within reach. Yet new fighting between his secular Fatah...
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2007-00-05
Tuesday, 05 June 2007 12:00 AM
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