The Islamic militant group Hamas breaks off talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on stopping attacks against Israel, in the wake a Middle East peace summit earlier this week. Amy Katz has more on that and other developments in the region.
NATURAL SOUND (YASSIN IN ARABIC)
The spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said Friday the militant group has ended its dialogue with the Palestinian Authority because Prime Minister Abbas is as he put it, ignoring “fateful causes” the group says need to be resolved, before it promises to stop terror attacks against Israelis. Hamas says Mr. Abbas made unacceptable commitments at the landmark summit in Aqaba, Jordan earlier this week, with U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The militant organization says two of the key causes that need to be addressed before it pledges to end attacks are:
The right of return for Palestinian refugees.
And the status of Jerusalem
At the Nusseyarat refugee camp on the Gaza strip Friday, thousands took to the streets – for a pro-Hamas rally, to protest the so-called “road map” peace plan.
There was also a similar demonstration at the Jabaliya refugee camp on the West Bank.
The White House denounced the Hamas decision to break off negotiations with the Palestinian government -- and called the group “an enemy of peace.” The Bush administration pledged to continue working with all parties to achieve peace.
In Ramallah Friday, Mr. Abbas met with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat – their first meeting since the Prime Minister attended the Aqaba summit. Mr. Arafat was not invited to participate in those discussions.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, Israeli forces shot and killed two armed, suspected Palestinian militants during a gun battle late Thursday night. The Israeli Army says the gunfight erupted when the men were found, and refused to surrender.
A third man was wounded, and later arrested.