Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has decided cut off all official contact with the Palestinian Authority after six Israelis were killed in a Thursday night Gaza Strip attack.
"The prime minister decided to freeze all contacts including those related to security because the Palestinians continue to do nothing against terrorism," Sharon media advisor Assaf Sharif told AFP.
"The grace period that we accorded (Palestinian leader-elect) Mahmud Abbas is over," he said, adding that any plans for a meeting between Sharon and Abbas were off the cards for the time being.
Another Sharon advisor, Raanan Gissin, said the Israeli army now had "its hands free to launch operations because Palestinian leaders, although they have 30,000 armed men in the Gaza Strip, have not lifted a finger to stop the terrorists from acting and killing Israelis.
"Under no circumstances can we allow Israelis to continue to be killed or the pullout from the Gaza Strip to be executed under fire," he said.
He added Sharon's aides had informed European, British and American officials of his decision as well as Palestinian negotiations minister Saeb Erakat.
Erakat slammed the move as unfair and as being at odds with hopes of reviving peace talks.
"We reject the freezing of contacts announced by Israel as well as the criticism addressed at (Palestinian leader-elect) Mahmud Abbas because he does not officially take office until Saturday," Erakat told AFP.
"The best way to relaunch the peace process is not to freeze contacts but to resume them."
Sharon's Friday order was echoed in Washington with a stern statement by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who refrained from criticising the break in ties and said of Abbas, "He's got to get those terrorists under control."