by Saud Abu Ramadan
The less-influential Palestinian Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement on Saturday vowed revenge from Israel for killing three of its militants, while it informed Egypt that it backs reaching a reconciliation deal to end the current inter-Palestinian split.
The vows of revenge were made by hundreds of the group's supporters who buried the three militants that were killed in an air raid in Gaza on Friday in eastern Gaza City.
Khaled al-Batsh, one of the top Islamic Jihad leaders that headed the angry mourners across Gaza streets at the funeral, told reporters that "The Israeli shelling requires a tough response" from the Palestinians. He held Israel responsible for any Palestinian response.
As the mourners reached Gaza cemetery, which is not far from the borders between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, clashes erupted between them and the Israeli army forces stationed at the borders. The Israeli soldiers responded with heavy gunfire, according to the witnesses.
Gaza emergency chief Mo'aweya Hassanein told Xinhua that at least 17 Palestinians were injured by Israeli troops' gunfire, with three wounded seriously. Earlier, Hassanein said that three people were injured by the gunfire of the mourners who joined the funeral and were shooting in the air.
Earlier on Saturday, the radical group said that the Israeli raid against the militants was encouraged by U.S.-sponsored meetings between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
The air raid was the first of its kind since the end of the 22-day Israeli war on Gaza which ended on Jan. 19, leaving some 1,400people killed.
"The Israeli occupation utilized the resumption of political meetings with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to commit new crimes against the Palestinian people," the movement said in a statement faxed to press, adding "revenge is coming sooner or later on the proper time and place."
The airstrike came shortly after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York, where he and his aides held a series of meetings with Israeli officials, including hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The United States arranged for the meetings that were in contradiction with Abbas' decision not to meet Netanyahu unless the latter stops Jewish settlement in the West Bank and endorses the two-state solution. The meeting was slammed by most of the Palestinian opposition groups.
The Islamic Jihad said the international applause of the Israeli-Palestinian meetings "provided cover for the Israeli crime," the first in months after the end of the major military operation in Gaza between December and January.
The group also slammed the PNA, saying its security commitments "have crippled and shackled the resistance" against Israel.
Meanwhile, the Islamic group on Saturday responded to an Egyptian initiative aimed at reconciling the Palestinian factions, mainly Fatah and Hamas.
Spokesman of the Islamic group Dawood Shihab told Xinhua that his movement is in favor of the inter-Palestinian reconciliation, "and backs all the efforts to end the feuds and bring unity to our people."
Egypt, which has been sponsoring the inter-Palestinian dialogue, presented in August an initiative to the leaders of the various Palestinian factions, aiming at ending the current split and achieving inter-reconciliation between rival Fatah and Hamas.
The initiative calls on the factions to reconcile and form a joint factional committee to coordinate between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the West Bank administrated by Abbas' Fatah party.
It also calls for deploying a 3,000-men security force in the Gaza Strip, and prepare for general presidential and legislative elections on June 2010. Fatah accepted the initiative, but other factions expressed reservations.
"The elections are linked to having a national accordance among all parties, and security apparatuses had to be built up in accordance to national and professional principles," said Shihab.
He stressed that his movement also supports the release of the Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza, adding "there are many Islamic Jihad prisoners in the West Bank and this issue has to be settled."
Egypt is scheduled to invited leaders of the two rival groups, Fatah and Hamas, soon to Cairo before holding a comprehensive round of dialogue in the first week of October. All factions' leaders, including the Islamic Jihad, will be invited.
Fatah's major rival Hamas will also respond to the initiative soon. Hamas bureau chief in exile Khaled Meshaal is scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Sunday for talks and to hand the Egyptians Hamas' response to the initiative.
The Palestinian feuds between rival Fatah and Hamas reached its climax after the latter seized control of the Gaza Strip and cracked down on Fatah movement and its establishments in mid-2007.