Thousands of Palestinians protest leader's death
Palestinian leader urges bigger U.S. role as peace disintegrates
GAZA CITY, Gaza (CNN) -- Thousands of Palestinians packed the streets of Gaza City on Friday to mourn the death of top Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab and denounce Israel for killing him.
Many of the Palestinians fired gunshots into the air, and chanted angry messages against Israel, which remains on high alert, fearing a retaliatory attack for Abu Shanab's death. CNN correspondent Michael Homes estimated the crowd at around 50,000 people.
Speakers used public address systems to urge the Palestinian Authority to break off talks with Israel. Crowds chanted "The road map is dead," "It is time for martyrdom," and "It is time for revenge."
The so-called road map to peace is a plan backed by the Mideast Quartet, made up of the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union. It is aimed at resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and establishing a Palestinian state by 2005.
Abu Shanab was considered by many to be a moderate member of Hamas' political wing and was an architect of the Palestinian cease-fire, in effect before the most recent violence. The Israeli military, however, said he had been involved in recent attacks against Israeli civilians. (A talk with Abu Shanab)
He was buried Friday. He had been one of the founders of the fundamentalist Islamic organization.
Almost immediately after the Hamas leader and two of his bodyguards were killed on Thursday, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- the militant offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement -- said they would no longer abide by their self-declared cease-fire.
In response to the suicide bombing, President Bush designated six Hamas leaders and five European charities that the United States believes support the militant group as "specially designated global terrorists," a move that freezes their assets in the United States and prohibits U.S. nationals from conducting transactions with them, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. (Full story)
The Israeli strike on Abu Shanab came two days after a bus bombing that killed 20 people in Jerusalem. Both the military wing of Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for that terror attack. Both groups have carried out numerous attacks on Israeli civilians and military targets in the past.
As a security measure before Abu Shanab's funeral, Israeli forces reestablished road blocks along Gaza's main highway, effectively dividing the strip into three parts, and stopping thousands in southern Gaza who wanted to travel to Gaza City for the funeral.
Israel had dismantled the road blocks a few weeks ago, as part of a goodwill gesture.
Three Israeli missiles had hit the car carrying Abu Shanab and his bodyguards Thursday as they drove through the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City. The two bodyguards were also killed.
Israel kills Al Aqsa Brigades member
Also on Friday, Israeli soldiers killed one member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and wounded two others in a clash at the main hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian sources said.
The Israel Defense Forces said Israeli troops went to the Rafidiyah Hospital where the militants had been holed up on the roof for several days, using the hospital as shelter. The IDF said the militants were stationed two floors above the maternity ward.
"In the framework of Israeli security forces activity against terrorist infrastructure in the city of Nablus, Israeli security forces opened fire at the terrorist cell," the IDF said. "A number of terrorists were hit."
The IDF said all those involved were wanted by Israel because of their alleged involvement in shooting attacks and in a suicide bombing August 12 that killed one Israeli.
A call for U.S. observation units
Ahead of the Palestinian Authority's meeting with an Egyptian representative Friday, Palestinian Cabinet member Yasser Abbed Rabbo called for a "strong American role -- stronger than before."
Rabbo has asked the United States for strong observation units in the region. He has also asked the United States to send a message to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urging him to give the Palestinian Authority a chance to control security.
"The Americans should tell everybody and Sharon himself, they should respect completely the road map," Rabbo said. "Implement it all, without preconditions, without excuses, and without delay."
"If this happens, perhaps, we can resume things the way they were."
Israel should have allowed the Palestinian Authority to follow through on its plans to crack down on the terror groups, before launching the missile strike on Abu Shanab, Rabbo said.
Palestinians put crackdown on terror 'on hold'
Referring to those plans, according to an aide to Palestinian Authority security chief Mohammed Dahlan, the missile strike came shortly before Palestinian police intended to launch raids on Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Elias Zananiri, Dahlan's spokesman, said Palestinian security forces had been given new rules of engagement, which would have allowed them to arrest militants and confiscate weapons. He said the new measures would have stripped Hamas and Islamic Jihad of their military wings.
"Now everything is put on hold," Zananiri said.
Meanwhile, President Bush on Friday said he directed the Treasury Department "to block and freeze the assets of six top Hamas leaders and five non-governmental organizations that I am advised provide support to Hamas."
In a written statement, Bush said that, "By claiming responsibility for the despicable act of terror on August 19, Hamas has reaffirmed that it is a terrorist organization committed to violence against Israelis and to undermining progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinian people."
CNN correspondent Michael Holmes contributed to this report.