Analysis Palestinians See Hatuel Family Murder as Legitimate

Not one Palestinian source condemned Sunday's murder of the Hatuel family, since this was a terror attack in the territories and against settlers.

A senior Palestinian source said he thought there was no chance the Palestinian Authority would express reservations since every settler was considered an integral part of the occupation against which action must be taken.

In the Gaza Strip, there were several expressions of satisfaction, the most notable being a march of Islamic Jihad supporters to Abdel Aziz Rantisi's home. They informed his family that the attack against the settlers was in reprisal for Rantisi's liquidation.

The Jihad took responsibility for the Hatuel killing, together with units from Nasser Salah-a-Din, the military wing of the popular committees whose members were mostly former Palestinian security personnel and Fatah supporters. This group was responsible also for the attack on an American military convoy in Gaza, in which three U.S. security officers died.

According to several Palestinian sources, the attack was timed so as to send a message to Ariel Sharon and his supporters that if there is an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, it will not take place in an atmosphere where Israel has the upper hand but rather amid Palestinian acts of opposition.

"We will not allow Israel to withdraw unilaterally at the initiative of Sharon," one Gaza spokesman said in a broadcast on Gulf TV.

It was clear Sunday that most Palestinians were hoping Sharon would lose the referendum, even if this was interpreted as a victory for the Israeli right. An East Jerusalem journalist explained that a defeat for Sharon could be diplomatically most advantageous to the Palestinians because it would show the world the true face of Israel's governing party that does not want peace and cannot be a partner to the peace process.

There were clear hints the Palestinians were hoping for a Sharon debacle. Yasser Arafat said at a May Day celebration at the Muqata that no country in the world could decide the Palestinians had no right of return - a clear repudiation of the Bush-Sharon understandings.

Although there were no official PA comments on the Likud referendum, an Arafat aide said off-the-record that the Palestinians opposed any unilateral move on the part of Israel, even if it involved evacuating settlements.