Palestinian premier rebukes Israel for strike against Hamas

Palestinian premier rebukes Israel for strike against Hamas

The Associated PressSeptember 8, 2004 

In unusually harsh terms, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia on Tuesday condemned an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip that killed 14 Hamas militants.

Qureia warned that the attack early Tuesday would invite a tough response from the Hamas militant group, and he said such retaliation would be "justified."

The tension in Gaza intensified as about 25 Israeli tanks moved into the northern part of the Gaza Strip early today, witnesses said.

The tanks approached the town of Beit Hanoun and the large Jebaliya refugee camp. Two attack helicopters flew overhead, firing flares that lit up the night sky. No gunfire or casualties were reported.

The operation followed rocket fire by Palestinian militants at an Israeli town across the Gaza fence.

The earlier Israeli attack, which struck a Hamas training camp in Gaza City shortly after midnight Tuesday, came a week after Hamas suicide bombers blew up two Israeli buses in Beersheba, killing 16 people.

The airstrike was one of the deadliest Israel has launched since fighting broke out with the Palestinians four years ago. Thousands of Palestinian mourners in Gaza clamored for revenge, and Hamas vowed to avenge the attack.

Qureia, speaking at a Palestinian Cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said he was outraged. "No crime goes unpunished," he said. "For sure there will be retaliation, and the retaliation will be justified if it happens."

Although Palestinian leaders always criticize Israeli attacks, Qureia's reaction was especially harsh, hinting that he would tolerate a Hamas reprisal. In the past, Qureia distanced himself from Hamas, which has carried out dozens of suicide bombings.

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