Archive for Sunday, June 8, 2003

Palestinians blast Hamas for leaving talks

June 8, 2003

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— Palestinian officials on Saturday condemned Hamas' decision to pull out of talks aimed at ending attacks on Israelis, saying the Islamic militant group's refusal to accept a cease-fire could destroy the U.S.-backed peace process.

Late Saturday, Hamas leaders met with their counterparts from the violent Islamic Jihad and other radical factions, where they repeated their rejection of the call to stop attacks against Israel.

Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi said, "All agree on our people's rights to resist occupation."

He said the groups did not change their earlier view that they would not stop attacks until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian lands. Neither group accepts the idea of a Jewish state in the Mideast.

After the meeting, Islamic Jihad official Mohammed Hindi told The Associated Press, "No changes have been made in the previous position concerning the cease-fire."

Reflecting the continuing tension, Israel reimposed a closure on the West Bank, banning Palestinians from entering Israel except in humanitarian cases. The closure took effect at midnight Saturday "due to a government decision and serious security alerts," a military statement said.

Israeli security sources have noted dozens of warnings of potential terror attacks, originating from the West Bank, in recent days. Israel lifted its last closure just a week ago after a meeting between Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

As part of the U.S.-backed "road map" to Mideast peace, the Palestinians have to disarm and dismantle militant groups that have killed hundreds of Israelis in shootings and bombings in 32 months of fighting. Abbas has been trying to negotiate with the militias rather than use force.

But on Friday Hamas said it was cutting off talks in retaliation for Abbas' concessions at a summit Wednesday in Jordan. At the meeting with President Bush and Sharon, Abbas called for an end to the "armed intefadeh."

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