weekend wrap 88.
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Al Qaida deputy slams PA referendum, praises al-Zarqawi
Al Jazeera released a video on Friday showing al Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri praising al Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was killed on Wednesday by American forces in Iraq. In the videotape, al-Zawahri did not mention his colleague's death, indicating that it was made before the strike. Al-Zawahri also rejected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's planned referendum on the future of the Palestinians. "I call on Muslims to reject any referendum on Palestine, because Palestine is a house of Islam and not subject to any compromise," he said.
Congress eliminates aid to Saudis
The United States House of Representatives voted by a large majority to cut $420 million in foreign aid to Saudi Arabia. Democratic representative Anthony Weiner accused the Saudi government of supporting terrorism, saying "American taxpayer dollars should not be supporting Saudi hate and terror." He said Saudi schools "continue to cultivate hate and intolerance despite claims of a `modernized' education system."
Artillery kills seven on Gaza beach
An artillery shell, apparently coming from an IDF misfire, exploded on a Gaza beach on Friday, killing seven civilians and wounded 30-40 people. The IDF was investigating the possibility that the shell came from ground artillery, but discounted the Palestinian claim that it came from a Navy ship. Earlier in the day, the IAF struck a cell of Kassam launchers, killing three operatives.
France, Egypt condemn Israeli action, US carefully supportive
French Foreign Ministry expressed regret at Friday's incident in which a shell exploded on a beach in Gaza, killing seven civilians. Assuming that the shell came from IDF artillery, the French officials called the attack "disproportionate." On the other hand, the United States State Department expressed careful support for Israel, saying it had the right to defend itself, but must be careful not to wound innocent civilians.
Olmert dismisses Abbas's referendum plan
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's referendum plan as meaningless. In an interview to the British Independent on Friday, Olmert said the plan was only meant to resolve internal conflict in the PA, and bore no impact on negotiations with Israel.
Hamas admits firing Kassam for first time in 16 months
Hamas on Saturday admitted, for the first time in 16 months, that they had fired a Kassam rocket at Israel earlier in the day. They warned that the strike represented an end to the truce which they declared in February 2005, and that it was "only the beginning." However, Israeli security officials asserted earlier that Hamas was behind the recent strikes that hit residential buildings in Sderot. The attack came following an incident in which a shell exploded on a beach in Gaza, killing seven Palestinians.