WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) disapproved Tuesday of an Israeli helicopter attack on a Hamas training camp in Gaza. "Retaliation is not a solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said.
Powell said the way out of the conflict is to implement a road map (search) for peacemaking proposed jointly by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
Unfortunately, Powell said at a news conference, Palestinian leaders have not taken control of all Palestinian security groups to crack down on violence.
Powell has called in the past for uprooting Hamas (search), the Palestinian terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for bombings in Israel, including two attacks on buses last week in Beersheba (search).
But his remarks Tuesday suggested he looked to the Palestinian Authority rather than Israel to put the group out of business.
Asked about Israel's raid on a training camp in Gaza that killed at least 14 and wounded 30 others, Powell said, "I don't think they (retaliatory raids) are very helpful. The situation is very tragic."
He again praised an offer by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to remove all 7,500 Jews who live there and the troops that protect them from Gaza (search) as well a handful of Jewish settlements on the West Bank as an opportunity to get started on peacemaking.
Powell called on Palestinian leaders to respond with measures designed to improve security.
Israeli retaliation "is not a solution to the problems we face in the region," he said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search) said, meanwhile, that Hamas retaliation to Israel's strike would be justified.
"No crime goes unpunished," Qureia said at a meeting of the Palestinian Cabinet. "For sure there will be retaliation, and the retaliation will be justified if it happens."
Hours after the attack, Palestinian fighters fired mortars and homemade rockets at Jewish settlements in Gaza and the border town of Sderot. One Israeli in Sderot was slightly wounded in a rocket attack, rescue officials said.
Americans for Peace Now, (search) a private Jewish group that often questions Israel's actions, criticized Qureia's remarks.
"There is no justification for terrorism," said Debra DeLee, president of the group. "Israel has a right to carry out operations against legitimate terrorist targets."
In a statement, she called Qureia's remarks "totally out of line."