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Europe

Palestinian Authority Still a Necessary Force

The EU acknowledges Israel's right to defend itself, but says retaliation should be well-considered.

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Will the Palestinian Authority crumble?

The European Union on Tuesday called on Israel to keep its response to Palestinian bomb attacks "measured and proportionate". According to a European Commission spokesman, Israel still needs the Palestinian Authority to fight extremists and as a peace partner.

The Israeli military on Monday afternoon attacked Palestinian targets in retaliation for the suicide bombings by Hamas militants that killed at least 25 people over the weekend.

The raids continued on Tuesday, with Israel hitting Palestinian cities across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The forces reportedly also struck near Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's main West Bank headquarters while he was inside. A Palestinian official said Arafat was not hurt.

A "measured and proportionate" response

The Commission spokesman said Brussels recognized the right of the Israeli government to defend itself against terrorism. "At the same time, we call on Israel for a measured and proportionate response within respect of the rule of law."

The EU reiterated its demands that Arafat take "concrete and visible" steps to arrest and bring to justice all those involved in last weekend's terrorist attacks.

Individual countries keeping quiet

Following the Hamas attacks, European leaders practically tripped over themselves to get their official statements condemning the suicide bombings to the media. But the reactions to the retaliation strikes were another case.

Aside from Tuesday's EU comments, no individual European country has made a statement. But they face a difficult situation.

Israels Premierminister Ariel Sharon bei seiner Ansprache an die Nation

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (photo) has declared the Palestinian Authority an "entity that supports terror". He has thus chosen language similar to that used by the US when it targeted Afghanistan's Taliban rulers to flush out Osama bin Laden.

This, of course, makes it hard for Washington not to accept the Israeli assault. And since Europe has joined the US-led anti-terror coalition, it cannot very well condemn Sharon's actions.

The words chosen by the EU also sound very familiar to what White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Monday: Israel had the "right to defend itself". But he added that President George W. Bush had not given Sharon a green light for military action.

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