PA asks US to stop Israeli air strikes on Gaza

Abbas spokesman says US should pressure Israel to agree to a cease-fire to avoid escalation.

abbas US envoy 298, 88 (photo credit: AP)
abbas US envoy 298, 88
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority on Saturday appealed to the US and the international community to interfere with Israel to halt its air raids on the Gaza Strip. Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, said the US should exert pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire to avoid a further escalation. "This is needed to prevent a further deterioration in the region and to preserve the peace," he said. Officials in Ramallah said that the PA was considering calling for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the Israeli military offensive in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which came in response to last week's suicide bombing in Hadera, in which five people were killed and over 30 injured. PA Minister of Information Nabil Shaath strongly condemned as "state terrorism" the Israeli attacks, urging the international community to step in. Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat sent an urgent letter to Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn asking him to interfere with Israel to stop the violence. "We call on the international community to immediately interfere with Israel to halt its aggression on the Palestinian people, settlement activities and the construction of the expansionist [security] fence - all which destroy the peace process," Erekat wrote. He also condemned Israel's decision to ban Palestinian motorists from using main highways in the West Bank, saying such a measure will "lead to the creation of an Apartheid system worse than the one that existed in South Africa." Erekat warned that Israel's plan to build 16 new roads and 44 underground tunnels in the West Bank, as well as other measures including the construction of the security fence, will eventually destroy any chance of establishing an independent Palestinian state. The PA, meanwhile, urged all Palestinian factions to adhere to the unofficial truce with Israel and reiterated its commitment to crack down on illegal weapons. Interior Minister Nasser Youssef, who is in charge of the security forces, warned that the PA would take serious measures against those bearing illegal weapons. "We will deal firmly and seriously with any workshop that manufactures weapons or explosives and also any place used as storage for arms," he said. "We will not enter Palestinian houses to search for arms, but we will not spare any effort to confiscate every weapon we find in the streets." Tawkif Abu Khoussa, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, warned that Israel was using was exploiting rocket attacks to avoid fulfilling its commitments and understandings reached with the PA. "The rocket attacks, under the current circumstances, harm the national interests of the Palestinians," he said. "They also provide Israel with an excuse to carry out its aggression on our people. We must not allow ourselves to be dragged into a confrontation with Israel because the Israelis are the only ones who will benefit from it." The armed wing of Fatah, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, dismissed Youssef's threats, saying its members won't surrender their weapons. "Our resistance is legal and will be continued," the group said in a statement. "We will keep our arms to fight the Zionists' campaign of terrorism against our people."