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Arafat On Israel's Invasion Of Askar Refugee Camp

Palestinians React Angrily to Friday’s Israeli Deadly Raid
Arafat: Israel Is Destroying the Whole Peace Process

President Yasser Arafat and Palestinian officials as well as political groups reacted angrily to Israel’s bloody raid in the northern West Bank refugee camp of Askar that killed four Palestinians and warned that the policies of Israeli government are flaring the violence and threatening to undermine the “whole peace process.”

“Israel is not only violating the truce - it is also destroying the whole peace process,” Arafat said Saturday from his battered headquarters in the Israeli-reoccupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Two of those killed in Friday’s raid on a civilian building by Israeli occupation troops were members of the Islamic group Hamas. An Israeli soldier also was killed.

Two other Palestinian civilians were killed in the raid, including a 40 year-old man, Palestinian medical sources confirmed.

Hamas’ military wing threatened revenge for the killing of two of its members, although the group’s leaders said the group is still committed to truce following a meeting with Palestinian factions and Palestine National Authority (PNA) officials.

Meanwhile, the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said in a statement released by the official news agency WAFA on Saturday that the Israeli deadly violations aim at “undermining the roadmap plan.”

“The government of (Israeli PM) Sharon is testing the international and the United States reactions in particular, in order to expand its aggression, continue its policy of assassinations, military incursions and siege (imposed on Palestinian territories by the Israeli Occupation Forces “IOF”), and to continue detaining more than ten thousand Palestinians,” the PLO stressed.

Separately, a statement by the leading Palestinian faction Fatah warned Israel that it should not play with fire.

The angry Palestinian reactions come as 5,000 people in Nablus attended the funeral of the four Palestinians killed during the Israeli raid.

Other Palestinian officials blasted Israel for its bloody raid near the West Bank city of Nablus and accused the Jewish state of seeking to wreck a truce and the US-sponsored peace efforts.

PNA culture minister Ziad Abu Amr told AFP after talks with Hamas on Saturday that the groups’ restraint might not last much longer.

“I don't think they will continue to commit to the truce if the Israeli army continues to destroy houses, arrest wanted men and kill them,” he said, urging the international community to pressure Israel to stop its attacks.

A three-month ceasefire by Hamas and other groups on June 29 has led to a dramatic falloff in violence while efforts continue to make headway on a peace “roadmap” promoted by Washington.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian Minister of Cabinet Affairs, accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of seeking to torpedo the process aimed at establishing a Palestinian state by 2005.

Abed Rabbo said the Nablus raid heralded a new setback. “Sharon wants to return to the policy of invade and destroy because Sharon wants to avoid implementing the roadmap,” he told AFP.

But Avi Pazner, an Israeli government spokesman, said the raid had nothing to do with the ceasefire.

“It was a legitimate defense operation against terrorists who were preparing new attacks,” said Pazner. “We are respecting all our commitments to the Palestinian Authority.”

IOF Detain Four Palestinians in Northern West Bank

Separately, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested four members of the Hamas around the northern West Bank city of Nablus, IOF said.

No details were available on the arrests, which came a day after Friday’s bloody Israeli raid in Nablus.

Israeli public television reported late Friday that the Israeli occupation army had arrested 105 Palestinians since Palestinian anti-occupation groups declared a three-month ceasefire on June 29.

Other figures put the number of Palestinians who have been detained by IOF in the same period to hundreds.

Ha’aretz reported Wednesday that “an examination of the records since the cease-fire was declared on June 29 shows that the army has arrested nearly as many Palestinians since then – 320.” This is exactly the same number as the number it freed last week.

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