JERUSALEM: Israel declared the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip an ''enemy entity'' on Wednesday and said it would cut utilities to the territory. The move complicates a U.S. plan to relaunch peace talks aimed at establishing a separate Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel made the provocative decision hours before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived for talks setting up what President Bush hopes will be a pivotal peace conference this fall. Rice neither endorsed nor criticized Israel's move.
Israel did not announce a date for cutting off services. The decision is likely to reinforce perceptions among Palestinians and their Arab backers that Israel will do as it sees fit regardless of the cost to civilians and that the United States will not block Israel.