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(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas tried to send a reassuring message to Israel and the international community by saying it was he, and not Hamas, who would set Palestinian policy.
"The president decides policy," Abbas told Israel's Channel 10 TV on Friday, noting that past agreements with Israel, including a February 2005 cease-fire, were reached under the auspices of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which he also heads.
Abbas also said that Hamas was working to halt rocket attacks on Israel that have drawn retaliatory Israeli air strikes and artillery fire.
Abbas appealed over the weekend to the UN Security Council and international mediators to pressure Israel to stop military operations that have killed 15 Palestinians this month, an Abbas aide said.
WAFA, the Palestinian news agency, quoted Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudeineh as saying that the Palestinian leader asked the Security Council and the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators - the US, UN, European Union and Russia - to press Israel to stop its military strikes. Abbas warned that the military operations would endanger a cease-fire that has been in effect for a year, WAFA reported.
Israel says the strikes target terrorists who have planned or carried out attacks.
A top-level Hamas delegation will arrive in Moscow next week for meetings with Russian officials, a Hamas official said Friday, part of the group's efforts to gain international legitimacy after sweeping Palestinian parliamentary elections last month.
Russia's invitation to Hamas angered Israel, which is seeking to isolate the terrorist group after its victory in the January 25 election.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that the Moscow talks with Hamas leaders would be used to pull them into the Mideast peace process.
The Hamas delegation to Moscow, to be headed by Mashaal, is to arrive in Moscow on March 3, according to an announcement posted on the group's Web site. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said the delegation would be in Moscow during the "first few days of March," but would not give an exact date.
Israel's cabinet last Sunday approved an immediate freeze on the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money to the Palestinians. Israel held off on adopting even more drastic measures recommended by security officials, mindful of possible international reaction, but has said it could push ahead with those steps later.