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The BBC's Stephen Gibbs
"This crisis appears out of control"
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Chemi Shalev of Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper
"I don't Israelis have come to terms with what has happened"
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Jerusalem-based media analyst Ghassan Khatib
"There is a great deal of imbalance of power between the two countries"
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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 01:43 GMT 02:43 UK
Arabs seek to isolate Israel
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa (with sunglasses) with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Amr Moussa (right): Arab credibility at stake
Arab countries are poised to break off political contacts with Israel because of the way it retaliated against a Palestinian suicide bombing within Israel on Friday.

Our intention is not to talk or fall into the trap of talking about peace proposals while we see that the Israeli Government does not really mean it

Amr Moussa,
Arab League head
Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, said peace proposals put forward by Egypt and Jordan could not be discussed while Israel continued its attacks against the Palestinians.

And he called for international action against Israel which on Friday used bomber aircraft for the first time since 1967 against Palestinian towns.

Israeli F16 warplane
Israel has used F16s for the first time in the current conflict
The bombings followed a suicide attack by a Palestinian on a crowded Israeli shopping centre at Netanya.

Only the Palestinian Authority is to be exempted from the recommended ban on contacts with Israel, but Egypt and Jordan, which have peace treaties with the Jewish state, will no longer be able to receive Israeli envoys, nor will they be sending their ambassadors back to Tel Aviv in the near future.

The Arabs claim to want peace, and if they cut off relations, it seems difficult to pursue that idea

Raanan Gissin,
Israeli spokesman
Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Mr Moussa, who has been active in negotiating with Israel, said: "Our intention is not to talk or fall into the trap of talking about peace proposals while we see that the Israeli Government does not really mean it."

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon condemned the Arab League statement as "a nonsense," the French news agency AFP reported.

One Israeli minister said Israel was now fighting a war
"The Arabs claim to want peace, like ourselves, and if they cut off relations, it seems difficult to pursue that idea," Raanan Gissin told AFP.

And in some of the strongest language used in this most recent conflict, Israel's Communication Minister, Reuven Rivlin, said his country was at war.

"Actually we are fighting a war, a war against terrorism, not against terrorist groups but against a terrorist entity being led by (Palestinian leader) Mr Arafat.

"And he is hitting us on a daily basis and the hits are becoming stronger and stronger."

Abd al-Aziz Al Rantisi, a senior member of the militant Islamic group Hamas, which said it was behind the suicide bombing in Netanya, said Mr Arafat was not involved.

Resolute tone

The Arab League foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo, also adopted a resolution calling for an emergency meeting at the United Nations in order to secure some form of international protection for the Palestinians.

Hamas rally in Gaza
Hamas activists have promised further attacks
The United States has already vetoed an earlier proposal to send an international protection force to the Palestinian territories.

The foreign ministers have also charged Mr Moussa with ensuring that their financial aid is delivered speedily to the Palestinians.

Mr Moussa had earlier said that the Arabs had agreed that they should support the Palestinian uprising whatever the cost, saying their credibility was at stake.

Our correspondent Heba Saleh says Mr Moussa appears to have brought a new resolute tone to the Arab League, but it is not yet clear if that will be matched with sustained action.

Bomber attacks

On Saturday, Israeli helicopter gunships carried out further attacks on Palestinian security offices in the West Bank, despite international calls for restraint.

Mourners fire in the air in Nablus
Mourners clamoured for revenge
Buildings were rocketed in the towns of Tulkarm and Jenin, wounding at least 30 people, and in separate incidents, three Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops.

Israeli bomber aircraft attacked Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza on Friday, killing at least 12 people.

Six Israelis had been killed by the suicide bomber at a crowded shopping centre in the coastal Israeli town of Netanya a few hours before.

International pressure

It was one of the worst days of violence since the Palestinian uprising began eight months ago.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell urged leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere to condemn the violence and "do everything they can to control passions" in the region.

Funerals were held on Saturday for Palestinians and Israelis who died in Friday's violence.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Israel's military response to Friday's Palestinian suicide bombing "disproportionate".

Sequence of events
0830 GMT: Suicide bomber hits Netanya shopping centre
Jewish settler shot dead in the West Bank
Nablus and Ramallah hit by warplanes, helicopter gunships and artillery
Israeli strikes against Palestinian targets in Gaza
It was the first time the Israelis had used fighter bombers against Palestinian towns since 1967.

European leaders also voiced concern at the escalation in the fighting.

The Israeli prime minister's spokesman said the use of aircraft had been justified by the "seriousness" of the suicide attack in the coastal town of Netanya.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the murder of "innocent Palestinian or Israeli civilians".

The Palestinian militant group, Hamas, said it carried out the attack in Netanya, and has suggested that more will follow.

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See also:

19 May 01 | Middle East
Arab League warns of regional conflict
18 May 01 | Middle East
Sharon's tactics
18 May 01 | Middle East
Israel offers settler deal
14 May 01 | Middle East
Palestinian fury over killings
19 May 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Day of mass funerals
14 May 01 | Middle East
The Mitchell report
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