Sharon warned against land grab

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The Independent Online

The Palestinian Prime Minister warned Israel yesterday against unilateral moves, such as seizing parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying the land grab would never be accepted by the Palestinians.

Ahmad Qureia, warning Israel against drawing a border without Palestinian input, said: "The fire will burn, the terror will grow."

His comments came as six Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid on the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in recent days that Israel planned to take unilateral steps if efforts to implement the US-backed road-map for peace failed.

Mr Sharon and his deputy, Ehud Olmert, have said these steps would include dismantling some Israeli settlements, but they also have made clear that Israel would never withdraw from all the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the frontier that existed before the 1967 war. Even before Mr Sharon mooted the unilateral steps, Israel began building a barrier that at points runs near the 1967 lines (known as the Green Line) but in other areas cuts deep into the West Bank - land wanted by the Palestinians for a settlement.

Mr Qureia said: "If [Mr Sharon] wants to build a fence and use it to annex Palestinian land, this is unacceptable. You cannot build a fence on our land, to cage us like chickens and hope all will be well.

"If you want a fence, go ahead. Build it on the Green Line. In this instance we are prepared to contribute to the building costs. But to build the fence on Palestinian land, put us in cramped cages and then run away? We will never agree to this." Mr Qureia said that he was confident he could reach an agreement with Mr Sharon. "I believe it is possible. We have to return to the negotiating table immediately."

But Mr Olmert said yesterday that peace talks were certain to break down because the Palestinian Authority refused to crack down on militant groups. (AP)

* An Israeli gangland bombing that initially raised fears of a Palestinian suicide attack killed three people and wounded more than 19 yesterday at a money-changer's shop on a busy Tel Aviv street. Zeev Rosenstein, who has survived four underworld attacks since 1996, was slightly wounded in the blast.