Israel bans Palestinians from attending London conference

07 January 2003
Israel dashed UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's hopes of rejuvenating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, by banning Palestinian delegates from travelling to London for a 14 January conference. The sanction was announced on 6 January in retaliation for the suicide attacks in Tel Aviv the day before, which killed 23 Israelis. 'The Palestinian leadership does not need to meet abroad in order to close down suicide kindergarten camps, to stop incitement to murder and to fight terrorism,' said Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement. However, his British counterpart Jack Straw telephoned to express his displeasure at the decision, complaining that legitimate Palestinian representatives were being punished for the work of terrorists. A spokesman for Netanyahu said that the government was not prepared to encourage anyone who spoke on behalf of Yasser Arafat. The delegation was to have included the Palestinian Authority (PA) Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and Finance Minister Salam Fayad, who has won widespread approval for his efforts to put the PA's finances in order and increase transparency. US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he regretted the Israeli decision.

On 7 January, Israeli forces raided the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, killing three Palestinians. A statement from the Israeli army said that the operation was part of a search for 'wanted terrorists'. Several homes were destroyed. Other retaliation measures include the closure of three Palestinian universities accused of being breeding grounds for terrorism, and preventing the PA from meeting in Ramallah on 9 January.

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