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Khartoum blames Tel Aviv for arms factory fire

SUDANESE Information Minister, Ahmed Belal Osman, has blamed Israel for arms factory fire after four military planes attacked it.

“Four military planes attacked the Yarmouk plant,” he told reporters in Khartoum, adding the planes appeared to approach the site from the east.

Meanwhile, Palestinians, according to Reuters yesterday fired dozens of rockets into Israel from Gaza and an Israeli air strike killed a militant in a surge of violence after the Emir of Qatar embraced the enclave’s Hamas leadership with a visit.

Hamas claimed responsibility for some of the rocket and mortar bomb attacks, raising questions among Israelis over whether it had been emboldened by the Qatari visit on Tuesday that challenged the Islamist group’s diplomatic isolation.

Hamas has refused to renounce violence or recognize Israel’s right to exist, and is ostracized by the Quartet of Middle East mediators comprising the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.

However, Hamas has said it would accept a truce with Israel in return for a state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had on Monday said the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had reached a crisis point and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was not pursuing a two-state solution.

“That policy of promoting a two-state solution seems to be abandoned now and we are deeply concerned about this move towards this catastrophic so-called one-state choice ... this is a major concern,” Carter told a news conference.

Carter helped forge Israel’s peace deal with Egypt in 1979, the first between the Jewish state and an Arab country but has been a strong critic of Israeli settlement policy in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Every (Israeli) prime minister that I have known has been a pursuer of the two-state solution and I don’t know that (U.S. President Barack) Obama has found that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been willing to go that route,” Carter added.

He spoke during a visit along with other members of “The Elders”, a group of former world leaders, to Israel, the occupied West Bank and Egypt.

“All indications to us is that this two-state solution has basically been abandoned and we’ve had a moving forward towards a ‘greater Israel’ which I think is contrary to the two-state solution concept,” Carter said.

Hamas had largely held its fire when other militant factions, including jihadi groups, launched cross-border rocket attacks in recent months.

For its part, Hamas accused Israel of stepping up its air strikes in the Gaza Strip to vent its anger over Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s visit and pledged to “continue to hold a gun ... until Palestine is liberated”.

Israel said it was “astounding” that Qatar, a U.S.-allied Gulf state, would take sides in the Palestinian dispute and endorse Hamas, branded by the West as a terrorist group. Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from fighters loyal to the Fatah faction of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Some analysts saw the Qatari ruler’s trip, the first by any national leader to Gaza since Hamas took over, as an attempt to build bridges between the group and the West and coax it into the peace camp amid Arab turmoil across the Middle East.

Previous rounds of cross-border attacks have usually run their course in days, with both Israel and Hamas seemingly aware of the risks of ramping up the low-intensity conflict to full-scale warfare.

Israel’s three-week-long invasion of the Gaza Strip, launched in 2008 with the declared aim of curbing rocket launchings, drew international criticism over a heavy Palestinian casualty toll in the territory of 1.7 million.