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Assassination of Al Rantisi, PNA Gravely Concerned

“Unjustifiable”, “Unlawful”, “Gravely Concerned” Labels to the Israeli Assassination of Al Rantisi

GAZA -- The extrajudicial execution of newly-appointed Hamas leader in Gaza Strip, Abdel Aziz Al Rantisi, sparked a flood of anger and condemnation.

In a statement, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) called on Saturday the international community to move immediately to protect the Palestinian people and his leaders from the state terrorism practiced by Israel in order to “blow a deadly strike to the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and oblige it to surrender to the Israeli occupation, settlements and arrogance."

The Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei' said that Rantisi's assassination was a "direct result" of encouragement from the United States.

"The Palestinian cabinet considers this terrorist Israeli campaign a direct result of American encouragement and the complete bias of the American administration towards the Israeli government," he said.

Dr. Sa’eb Erekat, Minister of Negotiations Affairs, condemned the killing of the Hamas leader as "state terrorism".

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this Israeli crime and state terrorism. It is evident now to the world that the Palestinian people need international protection more than ever," Minister Erekat said.

Speaking to CNN, Erekat expressed concern that Israel would now target the President Yasser Arafat. He said that acts of revenge would not serve either side, and warned that Israel and the Palestinians were in a "lose-lose" situation.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Nabil Sha’th, also attributed the assassination of Rantisi to the forgiving American attitude toward Israel.

"I completely condemn this Israeli crime of cold blooded killing in front of the whole world, while America gives away bit by bit our land and our refugees' rights. May the mercy of God be upon Rantisi... Israel commits crimes and is rewarded by the American president. When it commits state terrorism, it gets promises."

"Israel has been given a free hand [by the United States] to continue its policy of destruction, of siege, of assassination," said lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi.

"Right now what is happening is very dangerous. You are closing off all options. You are saying to the Palestinians you have no political recourse, no recourse to the law, no justice anywhere."

Hours after the Hamas leader was killed in an Israeli helicopter missile strike on his car in Gaza City, Hamas' armed wing issued a statement vowing "a hundred retaliations" that will shake "the criminal entity".

"Israel will regret this. Revenge is coming," said a senior Hamas leader at the Gaza hospital where Rantisi was pronounced dead.

"His blood will not be wasted. It is our fate in Hamas and it is our fate as Palestinians to die as martyrs. The battle will not weaken our determination or break our will," Ismail Haniya told reporters.

The White House early on Sunday declined to criticize the strike, saying instead that Israel "has the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks" and urging restraint in the region.

"The United States is gravely concerned for regional peace and stability," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The United States strongly urges Israel to consider carefully the consequences of its actions, and we again urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint at this time."

A US State Department official urged Israel to consider the consequences of its actions, saying Washington had not changed its policy of opposing assassinations, and denied it had given the green light for the deadly missile strike as many Arabs have alleged about other similar attacks.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned Israel's killing of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Al Rantisi on Saturday, saying the assassination could lead to more violence in the Middle East.

"The Secretary-General condemns Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Al Rantisi," a spokesman for Annan said in a statement. "He reiterates that extrajudicial killings are violations of international law and calls on the government of Israel to immediately end this practice. He (Annan) is apprehensive that such an action would lead to further deterioration of an already distressing and fragile situation," the spokesman added.

The British government on Saturday termed the killing as illegal and counter-productive.

"The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called 'targeted assassinations' of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counterproductive," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in a statement.

The European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Brussels early Sunday that "actions of this type are not only unlawful, they are not conducive to lowering tension."

The Egyptian parliament blasted the attack as a "stupid act" that would lead to a "catastrophe." A statement carried by Middle East News Analysis (MENA) said Israel's acts "put a great barrier against realizing any peace in the region."

In Jordan, whose King Abdullah II is scheduled to meet with US President George W. Bush on Wednesday, government spokeswoman Asma Khader condemned the killing as an "ugly crime" that "diminishes hopes in achieving peace in the region."

"This is state terrorism again," she said in Cairo. "This is an (Israeli) conviction (put) into action ... that this conflict will be settled by the use of force, which they apply whenever they can."

Lebanese Culture Minister Ghazi al-Aridi told Al-Jazeera satellite channel that Rantisi's killing was "a terrorist act par excellence for which the US administration and the Israeli government must be held responsible for."

In its condemnation of the attack, the League of Arab States also said that the killing was "state terrorism."

"This is a clear proof that Israel cannot live in a climate of stability," said the League spokesman Hossam Zaki. "They do not want a climate of stability. They need a climate of tension and violence."

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