The Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel’s killing of at least 18 people in the Gaza Strip as a “slap in the face” for US President George W. Bush’s peace initiative. The leading Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar was supported by other prominent members of the militant islamist group at the funeral of his son, one of 13 militants who died.
Al-Zahar linked the bloodshed to the American president’s recent visit to the Middle East, saying he encouraged the Israelis to kill Palestinians.
The violence comes a day after Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiators began talks on the core issues sustaining the conflict.
There were scenes of chaos as bystanders rushed the dozens of wounded to hospital – but for some, it was simply too late.
In response to the Israeli crackdown, Hamas said it had fired 11 rockets at the Israeli border town of Sderot.
A volunteer working on a border kibbutz was also killed by a Palestinian sniper.