/Jerusalem, Sep 4 (DPA) A Hamas official Saturday said hurting Israeli settlers in the West Bank was a 'natural thing' as they are armed and constitute the first reserve military force of the Israeli army.
'They are a real army in the full sense of the word. They have more than 500,000 automatic weapons at their disposal', Hamas spokesman Azat Al-Ghashek was quoted as saying in a report by the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Hayat.
His comments came in the wake of attacks by Palestinian militants on Israeli settlers in the West Bank, the first of which left four settlers dead Tuesday.
Israeli settlers were being protected by the Israeli army, Al-Ghashek said, adding that the deadly attack proves that the Palestinian people still want to battle 'the Zionist enemy'.
Hamas, which opposes the participation of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in peace negotiations with Israel that resumed in Washington Thursday, claimed responsibility for two attacks on Israelis in the West Bank this week.
Al-Ghashek described the peace talks as 'a media circus' sponsored by the US.
A Qassam rocket Saturday fired into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip exploded in an open area in the Negev desert, according to the Israeli army. No injuries were reported.
In the first attack late Tuesday, gunmen opened fire on a car carrying four Israeli settlers near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. All four passengers were killed.
The following night near Ramallah, gunmen fired at a vehicle, seriously injuring the male passenger and lightly injuring a female passenger. Thursday, shootings took place at the Ofra settlement in the West Bank. An Israeli army spokeswoman said no one was injured.