The Palestinian Authority has rejected an Israeli ultimatum to extradite the killers of an Israeli cabinet minister. At least three Palestinians have been killed as Israeli forces raided areas of the West Bank.
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah that the Palestinian Authority will never accept ultimatums from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"For ultimatums, we will never accept such a way of dealing with us. The ultimatum is sent by the whole world to Sharon to stop the policy of provocation, to stop destroying the ceasefire, to stop the incursions and attacks and occupation of areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority," he says.
Mr. Abed Rabbo was referring to demands from the Israeli government that the Palestinians hand over gunmen responsible for killing Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi.
Mr. Zeevi was assassinated in a Jerusalem hotel Wednesday, the first time Palestinians have killed an Israeli cabinet minister.
Israeli spokesman Gideon Saar says the government is demanding both the extradition of the killers and the disarming of several militant groups operating in Palestinian areas.
"Failure to meet these demands, which are grounded in signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will leave us with no choice but to view the Palestinian Authority as an entity sponsoring and supporting terror and to act accordingly," he says.
The radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the killing of the cabinet minister. The group says several of its members have been arrested by Palestinian security forces.
On Thursday, Israeli tanks and troops entered Palestinian ruled areas in the West Bank. Palestinians say a schoolgirl was killed by Israeli tank fire in Jenin and two security officers were killed as tanks and bulldozers pushed into the outskirts of Ramallah.