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Israel Severs Ties with Hamas-Led Palestinian Authority


Israel has severed ties with the Palestinian government led by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel is also stepping up the military pressure on Hamas.

Israel cut off all contacts with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, describing it as a hostile entity. A statement from acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would work to undermine the new regime and shun foreign officials who meet Hamas members during visits to the region.

Former Israeli diplomat Zvi Mazel says it's a good decision.

"One should not have any dialogue with Hamas," said Zvi Mazel. "Hamas should be put under siege until they change completely their fundamental positions."

Israel and the international community are demanding that Hamas renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept previous peace agreements, but Hamas has refused.

That defiance has prompted the United States and European Union to cut off nearly $1 billion in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority. Mazel said Hamas expected that from the United States because of its close ties with Israel, but not from Europe which has traditionally supported the Palestinian cause.

"Hamas probably thought that after a few months, Europe will come in and be less obstinate," he said. "But to their surprise and a little bit to my personal surprise, Europe acts as they should."

The decision to sever ties came as the Israeli army mounted its heaviest air and artillery strikes on the Gaza Strip since Hamas was elected in late January. The offensive, launched to stop Palestinian rocket attacks, has killed 13 militants and two civilians since Friday.

Hamas described the raids as a "massacre," but said it would not rein in militants who have the right to resist the Israeli occupation.