PA: Gaza 'massacre' threatens talks

Calls for int'l forces in the Strip to defend Palestinians from "Israeli acts of aggression."

Zahar 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Zahar 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinian Authority threatened on Tuesday to suspend negotiations with Israel in response to an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip that left 19 Palestinians - most of them Hamas gunmen - dead. The PA also called for deploying international forces in the Gaza Strip "to defend Palestinian civilians against recurring Israeli acts of aggression." The call was issued by the PA government in Ramallah and the ruling Fatah faction. PA officials strongly condemned the IDF raid, dubbing it a "massacre." The officials expressed outrage at its timing, coming five days after US President George W. Bush's visit to Ramallah and his meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. "The attack looks as if it was the outcome of Bush's talks with President Abbas," said a senior PA official. "Israel is strengthening Hamas and undermining the credibility of the Palestinian Authority." Another official said Abbas had been enraged when he learned about the high number of casualties in the Gaza Strip. He quoted Abbas as saying that Israel was deliberately escalating the situation to scuttle efforts to achieve peace. Speaking to reporters in his Mukata presidential compound, Abbas said, "The Palestinians can't remain idle in the face of this massacre. Such crimes won't bring peace at all." PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said Israel's "murderous actions" sowed more hatred and hostility. He offered his condolences to Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar on the death of his son, Hussam, in Tuesday's operation. Ahmed Qurei, head of the PA negotiating team, said the raid threatened to sabotage the peace process. "This massacre places obstacles and creates difficulties for the negotiators," he said. "We appeal to the Americans and the other Quartet members to assume their responsibilities and force Israel to stop its daily incursions and actions against the Palestinians." Sa'di al-Krunz, a member of the PA negotiating team, said Israel was determined to destroy the peace process in the aftermath of the Annapolis conference and Bush's recent tour. He, too, accused Israel of perpetrating "daily atrocities" against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Hamas leaders in Gaza claimed the IDF operation was directly linked to Bush's visit. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Zahar also accused the PA leadership in Ramallah of "colluding" with Israel and the US. Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, called on its followers to carry out suicide bombings in Israel in retaliation for the killing of its members. The group also resumed rocket attacks on Israel after a long period of refraining from such attacks. (Islamic Jihad and other smaller groups have claimed responsibility for recent rocket attacks.)