Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel on Saturday of violating the peace agreements in a 12-hour showdown that stemmed from a dispute over a Gaza Strip road.
The Palestinians "will not hesitate to confront any attempted aggression on our land," he said in a Cabinet statement. "We will not accept anyone harming the lives or jobs of our people in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli side must respect the agreement."Israeli and Palestinian troops confronted each other with cocked assault rifles and armored personnel carriers Thursday night and early Friday.
The incident, which prompted accusations from both sides, came as the United States appears to be making little headway in winning Israeli agreement on a troop withdrawal from 13 percent of the West Bank.
Arafat left Saturday for Cairo for a Sunday meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein about the deadlock in the peace process.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that the confrontation in Gaza, during which Palestinian truckers blockaded Jewish settlements, could make Israel even more hesitant to hand over land to the Palestinians. Israeli hard-liners claim that a troop pullback would leave more than a dozen settlements isolated and at the mercy of the Palestinians.
"You could also understand how sensitive we are to the issue of redeployment, which could place tens of thousands of Israelis . . . at great peril any time the Palestinians decide to violate the agreement, as they did last night," Netanyahu said Friday.
Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of staging a deliberate provocation and said Israel would not succumb to threats of violence.
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, dismissed Netanyahu's charge, saying the Palestinian Authority had made every possible effort to defuse the situation.