The Palestinian silence regarding Thursday’s terrorist attack in the South was “deafening,” and raises serious questions about the Palestinian Authority’s readiness for independence, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said Sunday.

“The Palestinian leadership’s failure to condemn Thursday’s attack against civilians raises serious questions about their readiness for independence, and their commitment to fight terrorism,” Regev said. “Their silence was deafening.”

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Government sources noted that even Yasser Arafat would issue pro-forma condemnations of violence during the height of the second intifada, something the PA leadership has not yet done since Thursday’s attack.

Regev, who said Netanyahu was holding security consultations throughout the day, said the goal of the military actions in Gaza was twofold: “One, to prevent the launching of missiles and rockets on Israeli cities; and two, to target those responsible for attacks on Israelis.”


According to Regev, Netanyahu instructed the military to make pinpoint, surgical attacks, adding that “every possible effort must be made to avoid harming Gaza’s civilians who are not our enemies.”

Regev said 15 of the 16 fatalities in Gaza since Thursday’s attack in the South have been “legitimate” targets. “Our response is measured and surgical,” he said.

Regev did not confirm reports in the Arab media that a cease- fire was reached Sunday night.

In a related issue, one government official said the hope in Jerusalem was that “we are over the hump in the road with Egypt,” and that common interests will prevail.

The official would not confirm reports that the US – which is relaying messages between Jerusalem and Cairo – had threatened Egypt that its annual financial-aid package from Washington would be in jeopardy if Cairo failed to take action to end the crisis.

Foreign Ministry and Prime Ministry Office officials would also not confirm reports that an Israeli delegation was in Cairo for discreet talks with the Egyptians on ways to defuse the crisis.

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry officials said that Shalom Cohen – Israel’s former envoy to Egypt, who was filling in for the current envoy, Yitzhak Levanon (who is out of the country) – was in continuous contact with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry throughout the day.

Even though there was a direct channel of communication with Egypt, the official said, it helped to have the US involved as well.

Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, meanwhile told the Voice of Palestine radio station Sunday that Israel was using the escalation in the Gaza Strip to complicate the PA’s bid for statehood in the United Nations next month.

According to an Israel Radio report, the Egyptian ambassador added that Israeli operations in Gaza were complicating Cairo’s efforts to stabilize Sinai Peninsula.

Othman was reportedly involved in efforts over the weekend to mediate a truce between Israel and Hamas. He said Sunday that Cairo’s efforts to bring calm to Gaza are ongoing, but there were no guarantees of success.

One of Egypt’s central demands in negotiating a truce in Gaza, the ambassador told a Palestinian newspaper, was for Israel to halt all attacks on the Strip.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials were furious that the UN Security Council could not agree on a condemnation of Thursday’s attacks because of Lebanese opposition. Lebanon is a temporary member of the Security Council, and statements such as those can only be issued by consensus.

“What happened in the UN was a travesty and ludicrous,” one senior government official said. “You had a text agreed upon by 14 countries, but torpedoed by the Lebanese.

Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah, with direct links to the Popular Resistance Committees [that carried out Thursday’s attack].”

Furthermore, the official said, the UN is indicting Hezbollah for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“Is this not absurdity in the extreme?,” the official asked.

“In those circumstances, how can anyone take the UN seriously?”

The Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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