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Israel’s Attack a ‘Crime’, ‘Terrorist Act’

Palestinian PM Slams Israel’s Attack as ‘Crime’, ‘Terrorist Act’

Bush, Arabs Warn Israel against Derailing Peace Efforts

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) condemned an Israeli missile strike against the political leader of the Islamic Hamas movement Abdul-Aziz Al-Rantisi Tuesday as a “terrorist” attack, as the US, UN, UK and Arab foreign ministers warned that the Israeli extra-judicial assassination attempt could sabotage the “roadmap” peace-making efforts.

“We consider this (assassination) attempt an awful crime and a terrorist operation in the full sense of the word because it targets innocent people,'” Abbas told the Palestinian satellite television channel in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

He also said in a written statement issued by his office, “Such attacks obstruct and sabotage the political process.”

Abbas demanded immediate action from the United States, the main Middle East peace broker, to stop what he called a “serious deterioration.”

“He (Abbas) demanded immediate action from the United States to stop this serious deterioration,” the statement issued by Abbas’s office said.

However, he also vowed to continue trying to reach an agreement with all Palestinian factions towards calming down the deteriorating situation.

“The prime minister emphasized that the Palestinian government will continue consultations with all Palestinian factions to reach an understanding and an agreement despite this foolish Israeli attack,” his office said.

Abed Rabbo Urges US Intervention

Similarly, other Palestine National Authority (PNA) officials stressed that the failed Israeli extra-judicial assassination of Al-Rantisi was an attempt by Israel’s government to derail a “roadmap” to peace promoted by the US President George W. Bush at two Middle East summits in Egypt and Jordan last week.

The PNA Minister for Cabinet Affairs Yasser Abed Rabbo said the Israeli actions signal that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon doesn’t want to accept the “roadmap.”

“It is an assassination to the roadmap itself,” he told CNN Tuesday. “That’s why we are now asking for an American intervention at the highest level to stop this cycle of violence.”

“This attack today in Gaza aims at the destruction of the ‘roadmap’ and of the efforts exerted by Mr. Bush and his administration in order to start the process of implementing the ‘roadmap.’” He added.

Abed Rabbo also said that the Israeli assassination attempt was premeditated to foil the efforts of the Palestinian government to pacify the conditions on the ground and to start Palestinian national dialogue.

“This attack is directed against the efforts of the Palestinian government to pacify the conditions on the ground and to start Palestinian dialogue with Hamas and other factions in order to have a Palestinian unanimous position concerning the cease-fire and the truce so that we will be able to implement all our commitments that are included in the road map,” Abed Rabbo said.

The Minister added that Sharon "knows very well" that an assassination attempt on a Hamas leader would result in the group rejecting any cease-fire. The attacks, he said, are an attempt "to provoke Hamas -- so there will be no cease-fire and we will not succeed in putting an end to the cycle of violence."

Similarly, Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr called the attack a "stupid act" that will have "completely counterproductive results" and lead to more retaliation.

Bush ‘Deeply Troubled’

In Washington, the White House said that Bush was "deeply troubled" by the Israeli helicopter strike against al-Rantissi and does not think it promotes Israel's security.

"I am troubled by the recent Israeli helicopter gunship attacks. I regret the loss of innocent life," Bush said. "I am concerned that the attacks will make it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to fight off terrorist attacks."

Bush added, "I am determined to keep the process on the road to peace. And I believe with responsible leadership by all parties, we can bring peace to the region -- and I emphasize, all parties must behave responsibly to achieve that objective."

Israeli military sources said Rantissi was targeted because he has been stepping up his involvement, his incitement and his coordination of attacks against Israel since the US-led “road map” for peace was introduced, the CNN reported.

The 55-year-old political leader of Hamas suffered leg, arm and chest wounds in the missile attack on his car in Gaza.

Witnesses said Israeli helicopter gunships fired five or six rockets on Rantissi’s car and another vehicle parked nearby.

Two bystanders, a 50-year-old woman and Rantisi’s bodyguard were killed.

More than 20 other people were wounded, including Rantissi, his son Ahmad and two bodyguards, Palestinian medical sources said.

Only hours after the attempt on Al-Rantisi’s life IOF Apache gunships launched a second air strike in which three more innocent Palestinians of the same family were killed when an Israeli rocket missed its target and hit their house instead.

The Israeli sources said the second Apache helicopter strike in Gaza on Tuesday was aimed at people who fired six homemade Qassam rockets toward Israel. No one was injured by the Qassam rockets.

The “roadmap” calls on Israel to take "no actions undermining trust, including deportations, attacks on civilians, confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property," and other actions. However, there is no direct ban on what Israeli officials term as “targeted killings” of Palestinian activists.

Arab Foreign Ministers Slam Israel

Arab foreign ministers meeting in Bahrain’s capital condemned Israel’s failed assassination and accused Israel of seeking to quash revived peace hopes.

Israel's helicopter raid was "an act that is condemned, condemned, condemned," said Saudi Arabia's Prince Saud al-Faisal, who wrapped up with his Arab counterparts a meeting of the Arab League follow-up committee in Manama Tuesday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara said "everyone has denounced this operation," which was "part of Israel's attempts to torpedo the situation created by the US-backed peace roadmap.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher accused Israel of "pretending to implement the roadmap while carrying on with its aggressive policy" against the Palestinians.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, for his part, told reporters that the attempt on the life of the leader of the radical Islamic movement Hamas "threatens the peace process.”

The attack violates the roadmap, said Mussa, accusing Israel of trying to "thwart any attempt to establish a just and comprehensive peace" in the Middle East.

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