As of Saturday night, there will be no armed militiamen in the streets of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters during a tour of the former settlement of Nitzarim in the Gaza Strip, he said that he has reached an agreement with leaders of all Palestinian factions to put an end to armed marches and rallies.
SPECIAL REPORT: GAZA UPHEAVAL
"We talked with the factions about everything," he said. "But the most important thing is that we have reached an agreement to end all armed appearances in the Gaza Strip."
Abbas said that it was high time the Palestinians unite their efforts to start the process of reconstruction in the aftermath of Israel's pullout. However, he stopped short of promising to disarm the militias.
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced they would abide by the agreement and halt paramilitary marches and rallies in the Gaza Strip. The two groups have held a series of military performances in following the disengagement. Last week about 10,000 Hamas gunmen participated in a rally in Gaza City, to the dismay of Abbas and several PA officials.
Sources close to Hamas told The Jerusalem Post that the movement has called on its followers to stop the celebrations over the disengagement on Saturday night to avoid further embarrassment for the PA. The sources stressed that the decision did not mean that Hamas would lay down its weapons.
"We will continue to hold on to our weapons, but we won't display them in public," said one source. "We want to give Abbas a chance to show that the Palestinians are capable of assuming their responsibilities in the evacuated areas."
Hamas leader Said Siam, who attended the meeting with Abbas on Wednesday night, confirmed that an agreement had been reached to end the presence of gunmen on the streets. "Our celebrations and rallies will end by Saturday," he said. "We have agreed that there would be no negative phenomena that affect the security of the Palestinians."
Islamic Jihad leader Muhammad al-Hindi, who also attended the meeting, said that there was no need for the presence of militiamen on the streets after Israel's withdrawal. "The weapons that are displayed in public are no longer relevant because there is no occupation," he explained.
Nonetheless, he said that the agreement did not refer to the weapons of the armed groups, but to those carried by individuals. "We're not talking about the weapons of the resistance groups, because these are directed only against the Israeli occupation," he added.
The decision to end armed rallies and marches comes amid growing pressure on Abbas to end lawlessness and anarchy in PA-ruled areas. The Palestinian Legislative Council is scheduled to meet in Ramallah on Monday following demands by 16 lawmakers to form a temporary emergency cabinet. The legislators are threatening to vote in support of a no-confidence motion against the cabinet of Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, accusing him of failing to end the anarchy.
One of the 16 legislators, Hatem Abdel Kader, said the Palestinian scene was plagued with security and political anarchy. "The security anarchy has crossed all red lines and the Palestinian security forces are partly responsible," he said. "The political scene is also in disarray because of the cabinet's confusion and failure to speak with one voice."