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Al-Jazeera leaks shock, anger Palestinian officials

The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership lashes out against yesterday's release of leaked documents by Al-Jazeera, stressing they have maintained full transparency with their 'Arab brothers'

AFP , Monday 24 Jan 2011
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Palestinian officials reacted with astonishment and fury on Monday following leaks in the media of secret documents on a decade of peace talks with Israel.

The cache of documents, the first set of which were revealed by Al-Jazeera on Sunday night, contain potentially-damning revelations on the amount of land in annexed East Jerusalem that the Palestinians were willing to cede to Israel.

And the hundreds of documents, dating from 1999 onwards, also reveal that Israel gave the Palestinian leadership advance warning before it launched a devastating 22-day invasion of Gaza in December 2008.

The revelations have infuriated the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank town of Ramallah, already weakened by years of failure to win a peace deal with Israel and the deadly rout of its forces in Gaza in 2007 at the hands of Hamas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the mainstream Fatah party, voiced astonishment at the leaks in talks with Egyptian journalists in Cairo on Sunday night, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Palestinian negotiators had never sought to hide the terms of their peace talks with Israel from Arab neighbours, he said.

"With everything we have done -- in terms of activities with the Israelis or the Americans -- we have given the Arabs details," the agency quoted Abbas as saying.

"I don't know where Al-Jazeera got these secret things from, and there is nothing hidden from the Arab brothers," he added, insisting that Arab countries were constantly updated on developments through the Arab League.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat reacted furiously, questioning why Al-Jazeera would release the documents at a time when the Palestinians are seeking a United Nations resolution against Israeli settlement building.

He said the documents contained unspecified inaccuracies and falsehoods.

Speaking to AFP from Cairo, where he was accompanying Abbas for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Erakat said the leaked documents were taken "out of context and contain lies."

"We don't have anything to hide, and I reiterate that Al-Jazeera's information is full of distortions and fraud," he said.

"We will examine the documents to reveal the truth and if there is a need to publish all the documents of the negotiations unit, then it will be done," said Erakat.

With Abbas and Erakat in Cairo, Palestinian officials announced that foreign minister Riad Al-Malki and senior Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo were to hold press conferences in Ramallah on Monday to address the leaks.

The documents, released late on Sunday on the websites of Al-Jazeera and British daily the Guardian, are the first of some 1,600 secret files relating to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Those already published threaten to undermine the already fragile standing of Abbas and his negotiators, who have failed to achieve any major concessions from Israel and stand accused by rival Hamas of supporting Israeli occupation.

Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman of the Islamist movement Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip, said the documents revealed the "ugly face" of Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) and "the level of its cooperation with the occupation."

"These secret documents that were presented by Al-Jazeera are serious," he told AFP. They showed "the Fatah Authority's involvement in attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause, particularly on the issue of Jerusalem and refugees, and its involvement against the resistance" in the West Bank and Gaza.

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