PA suspends peace talks with Israel over Gaza violence
Fatah: Raid is 'massacre on all of us'; Abbas demands Security Council meet; Jordan and Egypt condemn IDF actions.
The Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank on Saturday announced it was halting peace talks with Israel over Israel Defense Forces raids in the Gaza Strip, in which two IDF soldiers and at least 61 Palestinians were killed over the course of the day.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia notified Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the decision on Saturday evening.
Earlier, Livni had vowed that the IDF would continue to operate against militants in Gaza, despite the PA's threats to suspend negotiations.
"Even if the Palestinians suspend talks, it won't influence in any way the decisions or operations Israel carries out to defend its citizens," she said, adding "From the beginning this was the basis of talks with the moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority."
Abbas called on Saturday for the United Nations Security Council to hold urgent discussions on the latest round of fighting in the Gaza Strip.
"The president has asked for an urgent session of the Security Council," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said in a statement, adding that Abbas had already contacted Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on this issue.
Hazem Abu Shanab, a senior member of the Fatah faction in Gaza, called the IDF incursion a "real massacre against all of us."
In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry officials were meeting to discuss the violence in Gaza and its implications for the talks.
Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said as far as Israel was concerned, "talks are based on the understanding that when advancing the peace process with pragmatic [Palestinian] sources, Israel will continue to fight terror that hurts its people."
Abbas, who remains hostile to Hamas in particular since the group's violent takeover of Gaza last June, called Israel's threats and preparations to target the Strip "dangerous."
Jordan and Egypt condemn IDF action
In a telephone call with Abbas later Saturday, Jordan's King Abdullah II condemned the the Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip, according to the official Petra news agency and described them as violating all the international conventions.
The Foreign Ministry of Egypt, which along with Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel, also condemned the Israeli military actions.
"It is regretful that Israel carries out these operations without calculating the consequences on the adopted peace efforts," the statement said.
Another statement issued by Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef condemned the Israeli military actions. "I will quote the Israeli defense minister as describing it as a Holocaust," it said.
The Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group also described the attacks as a Holocaust which it said was taking place with "blatant Arab complacency and Western weapons and financing and comprehensive American protection of the Israeli butcher."
Hamas officials had earlier Saturday condemned what they called "international silence" over the IDF operations in Gaza, saying the lack of response included no reaction from members of the Arab world.
Foreign leaders call for restraint
The Quartet's Middle East envoy Tony Blair on Friday called on Jerusalem to avoid harming innocent Palestinians when combating rocket fire, while also issuing a harsh condemnation of Gaza militants' Qassam attacks on Israel.
"The loss of civilian life including children is absolutely tragic. The rocket attacks which resulted in the death of an innocent Israeli and injuries to many more must cease, and are utterly to be condemned," said Blair in a statement.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit called Friday on both sides to "exercise restraint and refrain from acts that lead to the military confrontation continuing."
Abul Gheit said the IDF's "military operations against the Palestinians in Gaza are an excessive use of force."
The United States has urged Israel to "consider the consequences" of any action ahead of next week's visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Rice's visit is aimed at prodding Israel and moderate Palestinians forward in their bid to reach a peace accord by the end of the year. The two sides declared that goal at the U.S.-sponsored conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November.
Senior European diplomat Javier Solana will also visit the region beginning Sunday, to encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to keep the peace process on track, his office said in a statement.