Palestinians cut security links with Israel

 

THE Palestinian Authority yesterday rejected Israel's demand that it should contain Muslim militants and said it had suspended security ties with the Jewish state.

Hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli troops in the West Bank and soldiers shot and wounded an Arab at a Gaza Strip roadblock on the fifth successive day of violence.

Israeli security forces remained on alert for attacks by Palestinian militants three days after a suicide bomber killed three women in a Tel Aviv cafe. Israel demanded on Sunday that the PLO curb militants following Friday's blast, responsibility for which was claimed by the Islamist group Hamas.

"We will not accept or deal with the Israeli conditions and will treat them as if we didn't hear them," a Palestinian security leader, Mr Mohammad Dahlan, said yesterday. "We have stopped both security activities and intelligence co operation as a result of the Israeli violations of the agreement by continuing to establish settlements," he added, referring to the Jewish Har Homa building project planned for Jerusalem.

Ham as has threatened more suicide bombings if Israel presses ahead with the construction, begun last week, of the controversial settlement in Arab East Jerusalem.

The fundamentalist group said the Middle East peace process was dying and it was time to deliver the final blow.

"We in the Islamic Resistance, Hamas, call upon our people and all Islamic, Palestinian, and Arab forces to deliver the mercy bullet to the dying peace process, and to unite efforts in resisting the criminal plots of the enemy," Hamas said in a statement.

A summit between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, to ease tensions in the peace process was unlikely as long as the Israeli prime minister continued blaming the Palestinian leader for terrorism, a Palestinian official said yesterday.

"It is far too early to talk about such a meeting, especially while Netanyahu keeps playing his green light symphony," the Palestinian information minister, Mr Yasser Abed Rabbo, said after meeting Israeli President Ezer Weizman.

Mr Netanyahu on Friday blamed Mr Arafat for giving Islamic militants the "green light" to launch attacks against the Jewish state.

However, a Hamas military chief on trial in Israel denied yesterday that the group's suicide bombing followed a "green light" from Mr Arafat.

"Hamas has no need of a green light from Arafat," said Mr Hassan Salame, considered the mastermind of three Hamas suicide bomb attacks in Israel which killed 35 people a year ago.

Mr Arafat, speaking in Sri Lanka yesterday, blamed Israel for violating peace agreements and called on the international community "to protect the peace of the brave".

In Cairo, thousands of Egyptian students chanted anti Israeli and anti US slogans in a demonstration against Israel's policies in Jerusalem.

Clashes erupted in the Israeli controlled enclave in Bethlehem where hundreds of Palestinians threw petrol bombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers guarding the tomb of the Biblical matriarch, Rachel. The troops responded with rubber bullets and teargas. No serious in juries were reported.

Similar clashes also erupted in Hebron, the site of fierce confrontations at the weekend, witnesses said.

In the southern Gaza Strip Israeli soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian who, the army said, had tried to run a military road block. A Palestinian police official accused the soldiers of opening fire too quickly and said the man, riding a cart, had been shot twice in the back.

The relatives of the suicide bomber who killed three people in the Tel Aviv blast appealed yesterday against the demolition of their home by the Israeli army. Soldiers were due to destroy the home of the bomber, Mussa Abdel Kader Ghanimat, in the West Bank village of Surif yesterday, in retaliation for the blast.

The relatives argued that destroying the house would harm the family and put "13 innocent people out of a home". The bomber's brother lives with his family in the same house.