Quartet condemns Kassams, eyes lawmakers’ release

The Quartet strongly condemned Palestinian rocket fire on Israel and called on Israel to release Hamas lawmakers. Top officials of the Quartet, the grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, met Wednesday in Berlin ahead of the G-8 gathering of major industrial nations. The statement issued afterward expressed “deep concern” over continuing internecine violence in the Gaza Strip between the Hamas terrorist group, which leads the Cabinet, and Fatah, the party of Mahmoud Abbas, the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority president. It also “strongly condemned the continued firing of Kassam rockets into southern Israel as well as the buildup of arms by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.” The statement “endorsed P.A. President Abbas’ call for an immediate end to such violence, and called upon all elements of the P.A. government and all Palestinian groups to cooperate with President Abbas to that end.” The statement “urged Israel to exercise restraint to ensure that its security operations avoid civilian casualties or damage to civilian infrastructure” and “noted that the detention of elected members of the Palestinian government and legislature raises particular concerns and called for them to be released.” Israel detained a number of Hamas lawmakers after the recent intensification of rocket fire. Israel was encouraged to resume relaying taxes and customs duties to the Palestinians through the “temporary international mechanism,” a system that bypasses the Hamas-led government to funnel assistance to the Palestinians. Israel suspended the payments after Hamas assumed governance in March 2006.Egypt blasted the statement for overly criticizing
Palestinians for the recent spike in fighting without blaming Israel. A spokesman for the Egyptian foreign minister called the statement “unbalanced” while urging the P.A. government to “do everything
necessary to restore law and order.”

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