Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Tensions have risen between Israelis and Palestinians recently. Israel will hold Hamas responsible for a deadly suicide bombing in Tel Aviv but will not hit back against the Palestinian Authority, officials say. A special cabinet meeting ended with agreement to increase security efforts but not launch a military strike. Instead it backed plans to revoke the Jerusalem residency of several Hamas MPs, adding to the group's isolation. Hamas described Monday's bombing by Islamic Jihad, which killed nine people, as an act of "self-defence".

The BBC's Caroline Hawley, in Jerusalem, says Israel seems to have decided for now not to embark on a collision course with the Hamas-led government. Three Hamas MPs living in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel, appear set to have their residency permits revoked. Our people have the will and the right to defend themselves and to confront as much as they can the arrogances of the occupation - Siad SiyamPalestinian interior minister.
Palestinians feel the pinch
Witnesses tell of shock
Borders between Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will also see increased security, reports said, but officials revealed few details. Overnight the US labelled Hamas and Islamic Jihad as "terrorist" groups, and said the bombing risked further international isolation for the Palestinians. Israeli forces also arrested more than 20 Palestinians in raids across the West Bank. The father of the bomber who carried out Monday's attack was reported to be among those detained.

Despite fierce criticism from around the world, Hamas has refused to retract its support for the suicide bombing. On Tuesday Interior Minister Siad Siyam became the first cabinet member to voice support for the strike. "We are not a great power who can confront the planes and the missiles of the occupation, but our people have the will and the right to defend themselves and to confront as much as they can the arrogances of the occupation," he said.

Attack claimed by Islamic Jihad. Nine people killed and more than 50 injuredMonday's attack at a falafel restaurant in Tel Aviv occurred during the Jewish festival of Passover. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, but a spokesman for Hamas said it was "a natural result of the continued Israeli crimes" against Palestinians. Israel has intensified artillery bombardments into the northern Gaza Strip in recent weeks, firing some 2,000 shells since the start of April. It insists its actions are in response to an increase in rocket attacks against Israeli towns by Palestinian militants from within Gaza. Although Hamas militants have observed a year-long truce as the group entered the political arena, Islamic Jihad says it has continued to recruit suicide bombers.

Japan has confirmed that it will halt new aid payments to the PA, adding to a financial crisis. Japan, which has given $840m (£474m) to the PA since 1993, said it wanted to see Hamas adopt a more peaceful policy, but did not expressly link its decision to the Tel Aviv attack. However, emergency aid - such as a payment last month of $6 million (£3.4m) to the UN's World Food Programme - would continue, officials said. Projects such as repairing roads and building residential homes are also likely to receive continued funding. Both the US and the EU have already suspended aid payments to the PA, leaving the newly-formed Hamas government unable to pay its workers and facing a financial crisis. Qatar and Iran have each pledged $50m (£28m) in new funds.


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