Jerusalem Post
by Khaled Abu Toameh

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas on Monday defended the decision to demolish the synagogues in the Gaza Strip, saying they did not want to give Jews an excuse to ever think about returning to the area.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas visited the former settlement of Dugit in the northern Gaza Strip, where he declared that the Israel did not leave behind any synagogues. “There are no synagogues here,” he said.

“Israel left behind some empty buildings which that are likely to collapse. All the public buildings they left are in danger of collapsing,” he said.

According to Abbas, the PA would destroy all the empty structures, including the synagogues, to build homes for thousands of Palestinians.

Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said his movement would not allow the synagogues to exist for fear that they would be turned in the future into “Wailing Walls” for Jews. “We won’t allow any Wailing Walls on our blessed land,” he said.

Defending the decision to raze the synagogues, Haniyeh said Israel was trying to keep them to put pressure on the PA to protect them in the future. “These synagogues were built for political, not religious, reasons. They were built illegally and should go away with the occupation.”

Meanwhile, a number of armed groups in the Gaza Strip announced that they would continue to launch attacks on Israel until it withdraws from more territories.

The armed wing of Fatah announced that it was planning to launch attacks inside Israel “until all our lands are liberated.” Muhamemd Hijazi, commander of one of the Fatah- affiliated militias in the Gaza Strip, said his men were planning suicide attacks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba.

“We will continue our martyrdom operations inside Israel until all our lands are liberated, by God’s will,” he said. “Gaza is only part of historic Palestine. We won’t lay down our weapons as long as Jerusalem and the West Bank are under occupation.”

Islamic Jihad leader Muhammed al-Hindi said his group’s main task now was to liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank. “Today we are celebrating victory in the Gaza Strip, but we still have Jerusalem and the West Bank,” he said. “Today we have begun the march toward Jerusalem and all of Palestine.”

He said the pullout from the Gaza Strip did not mark the end of Israeli occupation “because Israel continues to control the airspace and border crossings.” He, too, declared that his group would not abandon its weapons following the disengagement.