Mishaal in Moscow to enlist Russian help to end sanctions
RAMALLAH â€” One Palestinian was killed yesterday in an ongoing Israeli military incursion into Nablus that started Sunday and which the Israeli army has described as â€œopen-endedâ€.
It is the largest Israeli incursion into the West Bank in months, with some 80 jeeps, armoured vehicles and bulldozers taking part and with concrete blocks set out to block roads. Israeli officials say the raid has so far uncovered two â€œexplosives labsâ€ and several smaller weapons caches.
Tens of thousands of residents have been confined to their homes, among them 42-year-old Anan Al Teibi who was killed Monday by a bullet to the neck in his home in the Old City, medics said. The man’s son was wounded and evacuated to a hospital.
Residents told the Associated Press that Teibi was hit by shots on the house fired from a passing Israeli army jeep. The army said soldiers had been firing at armed men on a roof.
Israeli soldiers were also filmed using a human shield to conduct house-to-house searches. A young man appeared to have been forced to lead soldiers into a home after which he and several other young men were taken away in a military jeep.
The Israeli army has not yet responded to the incident, filmed by the Associated Press TV News, nor to reports of other such incidents.
The use of human shields is illegal under international law, and in 2005 the Israeli supreme court also banned the practice.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh denounced â€œthe criminal campaignâ€ and bemoaned the inaction of the international community. â€œThe occupation forces are committing their crimes in plain view of the whole world but the international community is not doing anything to make them stop,â€ he said at the opening of a Cabinet meeting in Gaza.
Officials close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the raid was threatening an unofficial ceasefire in force since the beginning of the year.
â€œThis will undermine the efforts that are being made to sustain the ceasefire with Israel,â€ said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Late Sunday, an Israeli settler was found stabbed to death near a settlement 15 kilometres outside Nablus. There was no claim of responsibility, but Israeli police said he was killed by Palestinians.
Abbas, meanwhile, arrived in Abu Dhabi after talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier yesterday to shore up support for the Palestinian unity government deal agreed earlier this month in Mecca.
Initial hopes among Palestinians that the Mecca agreement would lead to an end to international sanctions against the Palestinian Authority have suffered a setback after European leaders told Abbas on a tour there that the unity government would still have to abide by Quartet conditions to recognise Israel, end violence and honour previously signed agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel.
Only Russia, of the Quartet members, has shown support for the power-sharing deal, and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal was in Moscow yesterday to enlist Russiaâ€™s help to end the sanctions.
â€œWe hope that Russia will influence the international community to lift the blockade on the people of Palestine,â€ Mishaal told the Russia Today television channel.
Russiaâ€™s foreign ministry, however, said talks would focus on the Quartet demands.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone after Mishaalâ€™s visit was announced.
â€œWe donâ€™t think anyone should associate with Hamas and certainly not with Khaled Mishaal,â€ Israeli government spokesman Miri Eisin told AFP after the phone call.
France is the only other European country to have welcomed the Mecca agreement.