Chief Palestinian negotiator strongly condemns Israeli killing of 17 in Gaza

By Xinhua

Ramallah : Chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei severely criticized Israel after 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 40 others wounded in the Gaza Strip early on Tuesday.

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Qurei said in a written statement sent to reporters that he condemns and strongly opposes to what he called “the massacres committed by the Israeli occupation forces this morning in Gaza.”

Israeli army tanks and bulldozers rolled early on Tuesday morning into an area east of Gaza City, where Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen exchanged fire. Israel used artillery shells and air-to-ground missiles against the militants.

Mo’aweya Hassanein, chief of ambulance services in Gaza, told reporters that the Israeli army killed 17 Palestinians and wounded around 40 others, 12 of whom are still in critical conditions.

“These massacres which coincides with an ongoing siege imposed on our people in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the daily incursions are for sure obstructing the negotiations,” said Qurei.

He added that the talks between Israel and the Palestinians would be absurd “if nothing is done to stop the Israeli actions against our people.”

Qurei called on the international Quartet and the United States to carry their responsibilities. “They have to hurry up to convene the three-way meeting to follow up these violations and find out who is responsible and who is not for obstructing the peace process.”

The attack happened just one day after Qurei and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held the first round of talks over final-status issues in Jerusalem.

The meeting, which lasted for about two hours, is the first since last week’s historic visit to the region by U.S. President George W. Bush. Without yielding any fruits, the two negotiators agreed to meet again soon.