JERUSALEM – The Palestinian prime minister on Thursday warned Israel against unilateral moves, such as seizing parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying the land-grab would never be accepted by the Palestinians.
Also, nine people died in violence Thursday — six Palestinians in an Israeli raid on the Rafah refugee camp (search) in Gaza and three Israelis in what was thought to be a criminal underworld attack at a Tel Aviv money changer's shop.
Warning Israel against drawing a border without Palestinian input, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia issued his sternest warning yet.
"The fire will burn, the terror will grow," he said.
However, Israel's leaders appeared more determined to take unilateral action if peace talks fail — insisting they will keep parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, land the Palestinians want for a state.
Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (search) said Israel would dismantle "a considerable amount of settlements" in a unilateral pullback. "We are not far away from it," Olmert told The Associated Press in an interview.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and top members of his government repeatedly have said in recent days that they planned to take unilateral steps if efforts to implement the U.S.-backed "road map" fail.
Qureia's comments marked the harshest Palestinian response yet to Sharon's emerging plan. "It would be a terrible mistake to try to impose a solution on us by force," Qureia said in an interview with the Maariv daily, excerpts of which were published Thursday.
"The conflict will continue, the fire will burn, the terror will grow, no one will benefit from this," Qureia said.
Sharon and Olmert have said unilateral steps would include dismantling some Israeli settlements, but they also have made clear that Israel would never withdraw from all the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the frontier that existed before the 1967 Mideast war.
Even before Sharon floated the idea of unilateral steps, Israel began building a separation barrier that at points runs near the 1967 lines — known as the Green Line (search) — but in other areas cuts deep into the West Bank. The barrier is to keep out Palestinian militants who have killed hundreds of Israelis since 2000.
"If he (Sharon) wants to build a fence and use it to annex Palestinian land, this is unacceptable," Qureia said.
"This will not help, this will not succeed, this will cause a disaster. You cannot build a fence on our land, to cage us like chickens and hope all will be well," the prime minister told Maariv.
"If you want a fence, go ahead. Build it on the Green Line. In this instance we are prepared to contribute to the building costs. But to come and expropriate our land, to build the fence on Palestinian land, put us in cramped cages and then run away? We will never agree to this," Qureia said.
Qureia, however, said he was confident he could reach an agreement with Sharon. "I believe it is possible. We have to return to the negotiating table immediately. We need to renew the trust," he said.
But Olmert said Thursday that peace talks were certain to break down because the Palestinian Authority refused to crack down on militant groups, as required by the "road map" peace plan.
"If there is no agreement, I believe it is incumbent on Israel to take unilateral steps and to create a unilateral separation between us and the Palestinians," he said.
Under his plan, Israel would rid itself of land comprising a large number of Palestinians, but would remain in areas essential for security, Olmert said, declining to elaborate.
In the Thursday violence, Palestinians said four of the six killed in the Rafah camp were bystanders. Military sources said three militants were killed.
The fighting spread to a local cemetery, where militants and Israeli troops exchanged gunfire using tombstones for cover, witnesses said. The Israeli military said its soldiers did not enter the cemetery but shot back when Palestinian fighters in the grave yard opened fire.
Sixteen Palestinians were wounded, said Dr. Moawia Hassanain, a spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry. Several children were among the wounded, hospital officials said.
Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned the raid.
"The Israeli policy of settlement expansion, building the wall, assassination and all the unilateral steps lead to one thing: enlarging the circle of violence," he said.
Khaled al Kadi, a wanted Islamic Jihad militant, was arrested by the Israelis.
Also, 11 Palestinians were arrested in overnight raids in the West Bank, the army said Thursday. Palestinian sources confirmed that 10 people were arrested, at least one of whom was a well-known militant.
In the Tel Aviv explosion at the money changer's shop in a crowded business district three people were killed and 11 wounded, while the apparent target — suspected underworld boss Zeev Rosenstein (search) — was injured but escaped.