Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on Palestinians on Thursday to defy an Israeli army attempt to shut down a major commercial centre in Nablus.
Western-backed premier visited the modern complex which rises above the centre of the West Bank city and urged businesses to reopen there, ignoring Israeli ban on Tuesday.
"Shopkeepers are invited to open their stores and ignore the Israeli decision," Fayyad said. "The Israeli army orders and decisions are not valid ... We will deal with them as if they don't exist."
Fayyad, a former World Bank economist, was appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas a year ago after Hamas, which ran the previous, elected government seized control of the Gaza Strip in fighting with forces from Abbas's secular Fatah movement.
Nablus has been a focus of complaints that Israeli forces are undermining Palestinian security efforts by raiding into a major city that is, in principle, under Palestinian control and are stifling commerce by ringing the city with roadblocks.
Earlier, Fayyad visited the town of Nilin, which Israeli troops sealed off and placed under curfew for several days this week after protests, against continuing work on Israeli walls and fences in the West Bank.
Israel has defied a World Court ruling four years ago this week which found the barrier to be illegal.
Fayyad praised local people's protests: "Peaceful, popular action in defence of our land is a legitimate right to thwart plans to confiscate land for building walls and settlements."
Palestinians accuse Israel of failing to meet commitments to halt settlement in the West Bank. Washington has also criticised recent Israeli decisions to expand settlements near Jerusalem.
Abbas is so irritated by the settlement building that an aide said he is considering suspending the peace talks: "The Palestinian leadership views gravely the continuing settlement expansion ... and is considering suspending peace talks with Israel," Yasser Abed Rabbo told Reuters.
Abbas visits Paris on Sunday, as does Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, for a meeting of European and Mediterranean leaders: "The president will inform the international community and Olmert in Paris of his decision," Abed Rabbo said.
Last Mod: 11 Temmuz 2008, 16:20