RAMALLAH, West Bank, (AP) – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Friday that he sent a letter to an American peace monitor complaining that recent Israeli military raids in the West Bank undermine his administration.
Israeli troops have staged several incursions this week in the West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinian security forces had recently deployed in the city as part of a plan intended to impose order and bolster the atmosphere in U.S.-backed peace talks.
Israeli’s operations are damaging efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ West Bank-based administration to restore order, Fayyad said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said he delivered the same message in a letter to Lt. Gen. William Fraser III, a senior Mideast envoy for the Bush administration. Fraser met with Israeli officials Friday.
“I’m fed up with all that has been said of the Israeli intention of easing restrictions” in the West Bank, Fayyad said. “Israel increased its military actions by 50 percent in the first half of this month compared to the same period last month. What does that mean if not that Israel is trying to undermine the Palestinian Authority?”
Israel shut several facilities in Nablus this week, including a 70-shop mall, a TV station and a newspaper, prompting residents to question the authority of Palestinian security forces. The army said the organizations were closed because of ties to the Islamic militant group Hamas.
As part of the peace talks, Palestinian security forces have been deployed at different points in the West Bank with the long-term aim of increasing their presence and stemming the growth of Hamas and other militant groups. Negotiators hope to set down at least the outline of a final peace accord by the end of the year. The deal is meant to establish a Palestinian state.
Israel has been reluctant to hand over security powers to Palestinian forces in the West Bank, fearing Hamas loyalists could seize control of a territory that lies near Israel’s populous center. Hamas routed Abbas-allied forces in violent fighting in the Gaza Strip a year ago.
Fayyad visited Nablus on Thursday to demonstrate solidarity with those offices that had been closed. He said he did not recognize their closure and they would be compensated financially by the Palestinian Authority. Fayyad also met with officials from the Hamas-run Nablus municipality.
Highlighting Israel’s security concerns, Israeli troops killed an armed Palestinian in a nighttime clash in the West Bank early Friday after an Israeli civilian was attacked.
The gunman fired at the Israeli as he drove near the Palestinian town of Qalqilya just after midnight, lightly wounding him, the military said. The attacker then shot at arriving troops, wounding an officer before he was killed by soldiers, the military said.
No Palestinian group immediately claimed responsibility. But Palestinian security officials said the man was a member of Hamas who was wanted by Israel. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the incident to the media.
Late Friday, two Israelis were seriously wounded when a gunman shot at a group of people at the Lion’s Gate of Jerusalem’s walled Old City, Israeli police said. Armed people in the targeted group shot back but it was not immediately clear if the attacker was hit, police said.
Tensions have been high in the city since a Palestinian attacked Israelis last week with a construction vehicle, killing three when he squashed cars and toppled a bus on its side. The attacker was from east Jerusalem.
In his interview with the AP, Fayyad criticized recent Israeli construction in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the home for the capital of their future state. Israel considers east Jerusalem, which it captured and annexed in 1967, as part of its capital.