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Israel readies sanctions for 'terrorist' Hamas regime
Updated: 2006-02-20 09:12

Israel imposed a range of sanctions on the incoming Hamas-led Palestinian government as the radical Islamists confirmed Ismail Haniya as their choice to become prime minister.

Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmud Abbas warned that his government already faces a grave financial crisis, while Israeli acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed he would have no contact with what he branded a "terrorist" regime.

Israel readies sanctions for 'terrorist' Hamas regime
Hamas' Ismail Haniya salutes following his press conference in Gaza City. Israel imposed a range of sanctions on the incoming Hamas-led Palestinian government as the radical Islamists confirmed Haniya as their choice to become prime minister.[AFP]
As political tensions between the two sides soared, violence also flared on the ground as four Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Addressing his cabinet on the day after a Hamas-dominated parliament was sworn in, Olmert told his ministers that the new Palestinian government would be regarded as beyond the pale.

"It is clear that in light of the Hamas majority in the PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council) and the instructions to form a new government that were given to the head of Hamas, the PA is, in practice, becoming a terrorist authority," Olmert said.

"The state of Israel will not agree to this."

He then received overwhelming backing for a series of sanctions including a freeze on the payment of customs duties, worth around 50 million dollars a month, which Israel collects on behalf of the PA and travel restrictions on people affiliated with Hamas as well as extra security checks.

"As we stated immediately after the PA elections, upon the conclusion of the transitional government, Israel will immediately cease the transfer of funds to the PA," he said.

Abbas grappled Sunday night with the bleak new reality as already anemic Palestinian institutions looked to be starved of vital funds.

"The Palestinian Authority has faced a serious financial crisis since the start of the month," Abbas told reporters in Gaza City where he was due to meet Hamas leaders Monday to discuss the formation of a new government.

Abbas also confirmed the United States wants 50 million dollars returned by the Palestinians in light of Hamas's control of the government, but Abbas added "talks" were continuing on the subject.

Washington and European Union have threatened to slash funding for the PA unless Hamas commits itself to non-violence and drops its calls for Israel's destruction.

Hamas's prime minister-in-waiting Haniya said that Israel's measures Sunday were "designed to make the Palestinian people bow down and subdue their will by subverting their democratic choice".

"This decision will not intimidate us and the incoming government. We have dealt with all the challenges in the past and we will deal with these new challenges," he added.

Haniya, lead candidate for Hamas in its landslide election win last month, has said he will work constructively with Abbas despite political differences.

"This is a decision of the movement across Gaza and the West Bank including those in the jails," he told reporters. "We hope God will help us carry out this responsibility."

Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and has carried out dozens of suicide attacks in the past five years, has so far rebuffed calls by Abbas to recognize past agreements signed with Israel.

Abbas told Palestinian MPs at their inaugural session Saturday that he remained committed to a negotiated settlement with Israel, regardless of the apparent electoral endorsement of Hamas's hardline tactics.

"There is no military solution to our conflict. Only negotiations between equal partners are able to end the cycle of violence," he told the new parliament.

His words failed to stem the flow of blood with two members of a Palestinian militant group, the Popular Resistance Committees, killed in an Israeli air strike early Sunday.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said that the pair, implicated in the firing of rockets, had been targeted in the Khan Yunis area of southern Gaza.

Palestinian medical sources said that two teenagers were also shot dead during a major Israeli army raid on a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.

The latest violence raised the overall toll since the September 2000 start of the Palestinian uprising to 4,959, according to an AFP count.

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