Washington, 16 October 2003 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says there can be no independent Palestinian state without an end to violence and terrorism. Powell made the comment in response to the killing of three Americans in the Gaza Strip yesterday. In a written statement read by his spokesman, Richard Boucher, Powell called the bombing attack on the convoy of diplomatic cars "heinous."
Powell said he spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei following the attack. "I made clear to them in the strongest possible terms the need to move urgently to end terrorism," he said. "With Prime Minister [Ahmed] Qurei, I made absolutely clear that we cannot move forward to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without eliminating violence and terrorism."
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack which also injured a fourth American. Palestinian militant groups have launched suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis during the past three years. The website of the military wing of the Hamas said today that Palestinian "resistance" groups rejected the attack and denied carrying it out.
Qurei expressed regret about the attack. "We are sorry about so much, sorry about what happened today in Erez against the American diplomats. We condemn it strongly," he said. "We send all condolences to the families of those who have been killed there, and we hope for those who are injured that they will recover very soon."
Boucher said the victims were part of the convoy working to interview Palestinian candidates for a Fulbright scholarship to study or teach in the United States.
In the written statement, Powell said the victims were helping the Palestinian people and were "murdered by terrorists, the same terrorists who have killed so many others and who are killing the dreams of the Palestinian people."
Earlier today, U.S. President George W. Bush blamed Palestinian authorities for the attack. In a written statement, Bush said he condemned the attack in the strongest terms and that the Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms. He said there must be an empowered prime minister who controls all Palestinian forces -- reforms, he said, that continue to be blocked by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
In Israel, U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will help probe the attack. "We are shocked by this latest terrorist outrage. The United States government will investigate fully and work with the relevant authorities to bring to justice those responsible for this senseless and brutal attack. The FBI is sending a team of experts who will focus on evidence gathering and explosives," Kurtzer said.
Hours after the attack, the U.S. Embassy advised Americans to leave the Gaza Strip.