Sharon suspends contacts with Palestinian Authority
Move follows attack that killed 6 civilians
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the suspension of all contacts with the Palestinian Authority on Friday, following an attack by Palestinian gunmen that killed six Israelis civilians, Israeli officials said.
"The prime minister has ordered suspension of all contacts with Palestinian Authority representatives and the closure of all Gaza terminals until real steps are taken against terrorist acts," said the official.
The Israeli military said early Friday it would keep closed the crossing at Karni where Thursday's attack occurred, would close the Erez crossing, the main terminal between Israel and Gaza, and would continue the closure of the closing at Rafah between Gaza and Egypt.
"These terminals serve the Palestinian people. You can't expect us to keep them open if our people are being killed," the official said.
Three Palestinians on Thursday blew a hole through a door at the Karni crossing, a major commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza, stormed into the Israeli side and opened fire at civilians, killing six Israeli civilians and wounding five others, two seriously, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Israeli troops shot back, killing the three militants, the IDF said.
The Karni attack, and Israel's response, follow the election of Mahmoud Abbas as the new president of the Palestinian Authority, and observers speculated that the attack was intended as a challenge to show Abbas that he cannot control militants in Gaza. He is scheduled to be officially installed in his new post Saturday.(Full story)
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he got a call from Sharon's office. He said he asked the Israelis not to suspend contacts.
"You cannot hold Mahmoud Abbas accountable when he hasn't even been inaugurated yet," he said.
The Israeli general in charge of the area said the closings will significantly restrict the amount of goods going into Gaza, but that Israel would attempt to do what it could to help innocent civilians.
Brig. Gen. Avi Kochavi, commander of the Gaza Division, told Israel Radio on Friday, "This is a central crossing through which merchandise, medicine and food are brought. For a reason that is not clear to us, (the terrorists) are making every effort to destroy our every attempt to allow the Palestinians, their own people, (to lead) easier lives."
Groups claim responsibility
Three Palestinian militant groups -- Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- claimed responsibility for what they said was a joint attack.
Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization whose military wing has admitted to terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Israel and the U.S. State Department consider it a terrorist organization.
Al Aqsa is a secular, militant offshoot of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. The United States also considers it a terrorist organization.
The Popular Resistance Committees is an umbrella organization of militant groups.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on its Web site that funerals were held Friday for Dror Gizri, Herzl Shlomo, 51, and Ivan Shmilov, 54, in the town of town of Sderot.
Munam Abu Sabia, 33, and Ibrahim Kahili, 46, were also killed, Haaretz reported. The sixth victim was not identified.