Israel: Palestinian Authority supports terrorists
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- After more than five hours of closed-door talks, the Israeli Cabinet early Tuesday called the Palestinian Authority a "terrorist supporting entity" that must be dealt with as such.
"The government determines the lethal and cruel terror attacks over the last weekend shows the lack of inhibition of our enemies and calls for a larger scale activity than has been taken to date against Palestinian terror," the Cabinet said in a statement.
The statement said the ministers for national security will be able to make operative decisions regarding military, political, financial and media matters as long as the prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister are included in the decisions.
"This will change if the Palestinian Authority fulfills its commitments by the agreements by preventing and stopping terror, punishing terrorists and the dismembering of the terrorists infrastructure," the Cabinet said.
The Cabinet also said it considers Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's elite guard, Force 17, and Tanzim, a Palestinian group loyal to Arafat's Fatah faction, as "terror organizations, and the activity against them will be in accordance."
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli tanks moved into the area around Gaza International Airport following a day of military strikes in the West Bank and Gaza, said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
Erakat said Israeli bulldozers were tearing up parts of the runway at the airport, one of the most potent symbols of Palestinian independence.
The Israeli reprisals followed a weekend of bloody violence in which 25 Israelis died in three suicide bomb attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa.
Erakat said tanks also entered the Palestinian town of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, the town of Al Bireh in Ramallah and the town of Nablus in the West Bank.
Ten Israeli tanks were positioned near Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's office in Ramallah while he was inside, Erakat said.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Israeli Defense Forces.
In a televised address to the nation Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel faced a "war of terrorism."
"This war will not be an easy war; this war will not be a short war, but we shall win," Sharon said. (Full story)
Erakat called Sharon's statement a declaration of war.
"He is saying, 'War, war, war now, peace later.' I think he is making the mistake of his life," said Erakat, who called on the United States and European leaders to "stop Sharon." (Full story)
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told CNN the Israeli actions were a message to Arafat.
"In many ways, this is more of a warning than a military operation. It is a warning to Arafat, telling him: 'Take the situation into your own hands and respond to the real problems,'" Peres said during an interview with CNN's "Larry King Live."
Peres said Israel has received warnings of future acts of violence and that Arafat needed to take immediate action.
"To outlaw the other three organizations that have arms and bombs and use them. Then to arrest the troublemakers of the Palestinians and arrest them seriously," Peres said.
Palestinian security forces arrested two Hamas leaders and dozens of other members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad Sunday after Arafat declared a state of emergency following the weekend bombings.
Arafat is reportedly seeking an Arab summit over the Israeli strikes. He contacted Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to seek a summit of the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Israeli F-16 fighter jets Monday night attacked the civil police headquarters and Arafat's offices in the West Bank town of Jenin, Israel Defense Forces said.
Palestinian security sources said the Palestinian police headquarters was destroyed but that there were no injuries because the building was evacuated before the attacks.
The sources also reported an explosion in Bethlehem in the West Bank. The source of the blast was unclear. The Israeli army was checking both reports.
The attack came just after Israeli helicopter gunships struck Arafat's heliport and guard barracks in Gaza City.
At least 15 people were wounded and at least two of Arafat's helicopters were destroyed in Gaza, Palestinian hospital officials said.
Arafat was in the West Bank town of Ramallah at the time of the airstrike.
It remains unclear whether anyone was killed in Monday's attack in Gaza City.
Palestinian Cabinet member Nabil Sha'ath, who said he was close to the scene of the attack, reported the barracks of Arafat's personal guards had been destroyed and that there were "many dead and injured."
Late Saturday, two suicide bombers detonated explosives near the crowded Zion Square shopping complex in Jerusalem, killing 10 Israelis and themselves. The explosions wounded about 180 others.
A third blast rocked the area about 10 minutes later from a car bomb that was timed to explode as rescue workers arrived to tend to casualties, police said.
Most of the victims were young people who came out after sundown to celebrate the end of the Sabbath.
About 12 hours later, around midday Sunday, a powerful bomb ripped through a public bus in the Israeli port city of Haifa, police said, killing 16 people, including a suicide bomber, and injuring about 35 others.
On Sunday, a person speaking Arabic called the Jerusalem bureau of the BBC, identified himself as being from the Islamic Jihad and said the group was behind the Jerusalem bombings.
A Web site claiming to represent the radical Islamic group Hamas said it was responsible for the Jerusalem and Haifa attacks.
Palestinian sources in Gaza told CNN that Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were to hold a summit meeting Monday in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, in response to the bombings.
Hassan Abdel Rahman, Palestine Liberation Organization representative to the United States, said the responsibility for controlling terrorists should not rest solely with the Palestinian Authority. "It is unfair to put the blame on Yasser Arafat and the authority alone without looking at what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians," Abdel Rahman said. "The conditions that are created by Israel make the Palestinian people very angry and very frustrated."
Retired U.S. Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who is in the region to broker a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians, said he condemned "in the strongest possible terms the vicious and evil terrorist attacks in Jerusalem."
The weekend suicide attacks came on the heels of the arrest of more than a dozen members of the Islamic Jihad after the group claimed responsibility for two recent suicide attacks in Israel. Palestinian authorities said many of the arrests occurred in the West Bank, including the arrest of Mohammed al-Hindi, a top operative of the group.
Israel's attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza prove that it does not want a final settlement to the Middle East conflict, the Palestinian observer to the United Nations told CNN Monday. Nasser al-Kidwa spoke after the U.N. General Assembly adopted a series of resolutions by an overwhelming majority criticizing Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and its policies on Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The resolutions were not related to the suicide bombings or to the retaliatory strikes by Israel in Gaza. (Full story)
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