Monday, February 20, 2006

Israel Imposes Sanctions on PA.

Israel has imposed restrictions on the Palestinian Authority in an apparent move after Hamas's election victory. The security checks would be stepped up at crossing points between Israel and Gaza and the movement of Hamas members restricted in West Bank territory under Israel's control. Israel will call international donors not to transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority once Hamas forms a government, but will allow money in for humanitarian purposes.

Nabil Abu Rudainah, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called the Israeli measures harmful.

But Israeli government source said: "We did not want to make it too hard for the Palestinians or take steps now that would prevent us from taking harsher measures later. "We also took international pressure into consideration. We want to maintain international sympathy for Israel's position."

Israel will halt the payment of customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, worth about $50 million a month. Almost all Palestinian exports from Gaza must pass through Israeli crossings.

Nayef Rajoub, a prominent Hamas leader who is likely to assume a ministerial portfolio in the new government, accused Israel of carrying out a "silent genocide against millions of men, women and children" in the occupied Palestinian territories. Rajoub described decisions by the Israeli government to stop transferring Palestinian tax returns to the PA as "theft in broad daylight".

"Israel will bear the full responsibility for this legal and moral crime against the Palestinian people," he said.

Onn Sunday, Ehud Olmert, the acting Israeli prime minister, ruled out all contacts with the new Hamas-led Palestinian legislature. Olmert made the comments to the Israeli cabinet, which met a day after the new Hamas-dominated Palestinian legislature was sworn into office.

Olmert asked the cabinet to consider a series of economic sanctions against the Palestinians. The measures were meant to crush the already battered economy of the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas's electoral victory.

He said that the moment Hamas enters parliament, relations with the Palestinians will be affected. However, Olmert said Israel would allow humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinians. "Given the Hamas majority in parliament ... the Palestinian Authority becomes, in effect, a terror authority, Israel won't agree to that."

Olmert said Israel "won't compromise with terror" and ruled out any contacts with a government in which Hamas participates. "On the other hand, we have no intention of hurting the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people,”

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