Israel to impose Hamas sanctions


Israel's cabinet has approved punitive sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, now led by militant group Hamas.

Israel will withhold an estimated $50m (£28m) in monthly customs revenues due to the PA, and will tighten borders for people and food crossing into Gaza.

Before the cabinet meeting, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the Hamas-led PA a "terrorist authority" and ruled out direct talks.

Israel would allow humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinians, Mr Olmert said.

"It is clear that in light of the Hamas majority in the PLC and the instructions to form a new government that were given to the head of Hamas, the PA is - in practice - becoming a terrorist authority," Mr Olmert said.

"Israel will not hold contacts with the administration in which Hamas plays any part - small, large or permanent."

Abbas peace call
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is expected to ask Ismail Haniya of Hamas to form a government, after his widely-expected nomination was confirmed on Sunday.

The newly-elected speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Duaik, said Israel's decision would prove counter-productive.

"This is a faulty decision, and the Israelis must reconsider their decision. It will only increase hatred."

A spokesman for Mr Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeinah, said Israel's decisions were "over-hasty".

Speaking on Saturday at the inauguration of the new Palestinian parliament, Mr Abbas stressed the need for a negotiated settlement with Israel.

Seventy-four Hamas members were among those sworn in to the Palestinian Legislative Council at ceremonies in Ramallah and Gaza City.

Hamas officials rejected suggestions that they should recognise the state of Israel and enter talks, but did hint at holding a dialogue with Mr Abbas.

Also on Sunday, Israeli aircraft killed two Palestinians suspected of laying bombs near the border with Gaza.

The men, hit by a missile near the border fence at Kouza, were reported to be members of the Popular Resistance Committees, which has carried out previous attacks against Israeli targets.