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June 29, 2017

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Don't 'hurry' to back Palestinian gov't: Israel PM

JERUSALEM -- World governments should not rush to approve the new Palestinian government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday after the Palestinians accused Israel of looking to punish them over a unity deal.

"I call on all responsible elements within the international community not to hurry to recognize the Palestinian government that Hamas is part of, and which relies on Hamas," Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting, saying it would "strengthen terror."

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has said the new government, which is to be sworn in at his Muqataa headquarters in Ramallah on Monday, will be a government of political independents that will reject violence, recognize Israel and abide by all existing agreements.

Although the formal line-up has not yet been made public, it has been pieced together by Abbas' Fatah movement and Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers in accordance with a reconciliation agreement inked in April. Technocratic in nature, it will not have a political mandate.

Israel has described the unity deal as a blow to peace and vowed to boycott it.

In a move which further underscored Israel's opposition to the new government which will take office on Monday, three Gazans who were to travel to the West Bank to be sworn in as ministers were blocked from leaving the coastal enclave, officials said.

Government Boycott

Speaking late on Saturday, Abbas said Israel had informed him it would cut all ties with the incoming government, in what he described as punishing the Palestinians for overcoming their years-long internal political differences.

"Israel wants to punish us for agreeing with Hamas on this government," he said, explaining that it had been made clear to him that the Netanyahu administration would "boycott the government the moment it is announced."

But the Palestinians would have an answer for every Israeli move, he warned.

"Each Israeli step will have a proper Palestinian response," he said, without elaborating.

"We will take everything step-by-step, we will not be the ones to react first."

He appeared to be alluding to Palestinian intentions to seek further recognition for their promised state in the international diplomatic arena.

Stuck in the Strip

Earlier, a senior Palestinian official said Israel had blocked the passage of three Gazans who were to have been sworn in as ministers in the new government.

The three had applied to cross to the West Bank on Thursday, but their application was immediately rejected.

"We sent the application in on Thursday and explained that these officials are to be sworn in as ministers in Ramallah, but Israel immediately rejected the application," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry unit responsible for Palestinian civilian coordination, refused to comment on the matter, as did Netanyahu's office.

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