By George Whitten, Jerusalem Bureau Chief
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (Worthy News) — The militant group Hamas has rejected a cease fire with Israel and Iran said the country has no “right to exist,” after Israeli forces killed a Hamas minister and struck a United Nations compound in the Gaza Strip.
Syria, which the United States has accused of supporting terrorism, said it would halt peace talks. “Syria has decided that indirect peace negotiations with Israel will be halted,” said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at an Arabic emergency summit Friday, January 16, in Qatar, where the announcements were made.
Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas leader, told the gathering Friday, January 16, that he refuses to accept a ceasefire in Gaza. “I assure you, despite all the destruction in Gaza, we will not accept Israel’s condition for a ceasefire,” Meshaal told the gathering.
Those attending the meeting also included Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who the U.S says supports groups like Hamas. He said Thursday, January 15, that Israel has ” “no longer the right to exist as a Jewish state in the region.”
He also demanded the “establishment of a criminal court to prosecute the officials and leaders of the Zionist entity,” a reference to Israel.
Others discussing the crisis at the summit were members of the radical Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) groups.
There were no officials from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or the Palestinian Authority, indicating a division on the issue among Arab leaders, observers said.
“We tell our loved ones in Gaza, the aggression will soon crash on the rock of your steadfastness,” Meshaal told his audience at the opening of the gathering in comments monitored by Worthy News.
He said talks of a cease fire can only begin when Israel’s “aggression stops, that the enemy retreats completely from Gaza, [and] that the blockade is lifted without ever returning to it.”
The Hamas leader also demanded a key border crossing with Egypt to be opened, despite international concerns that it is used to smuggle weapons to the militant group.
Friday’s talks came as in the Gaza Strip mourners buried Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam, who was killed during an Israeli air strike on Thursday. January 15. Siam was regarded as the architect of Hamas’ takeover Gaza in 2007, analysts said.
Also on Thursday, January 15, at least three people were injured when Israeli forces hit the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in what the military said was a response to an attack by militants.
It resembled an earlier incident in Israel’s campaign against Hamas, when Israeli mortar shells landed outside a U.N.-run school in Jabaliya, in northern Gaza, killing at least 40 Palestinians, according to U.N. and hospital officials.
The nearby Al-Shurouq Tower, a high-rise media center, was also hit by shells, and at least two television cameramen were hospitalized, television footage showed.
As Hamas refuses a truce, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on Israel to carry out a “unilateral cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has rejected those calls and on Friday, January 16, continued its bombardment of Gaza, which the government says is aimed at destroying the ability of Hamas to fire rockets into Israel, threatening one million residents.
The U.N. and other international organizations have however expressed concerns about the reported death toll of about 1,100 people in the Israeli offensive, including women and children.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the many causulties, saying it uses civilians as “human shields” in one of the world’s most densely populated areas.