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(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday criticized Palestinian groups for launching rocket attacks on Israel, saying such actions harmed Palestinian interests.
However, Abbas stopped short of promising to take any action against those responsible for the rocket attacks. The PA security forces, who in recent weeks have been waging a campaign against car thieves and drug dealers throughout the West Bank, have thus far refrained from detaining any of the Hamas or Fatah gunmen who have been firing rockets at Israel over the past few days.
"Those who are doing these things are acting against the interests of our people," Abbas said.
"We had agreed to a hudna [temporary truce] and it must continue so that security and stability would prevail. We don't want our people to be under the threat of Israeli warplanes and artillery. Anyone who carries our attacks that provoke Israel is being irresponsible and is acting against the interests of our people."
Abbas, who was speaking in Gaza City during a ceremony to inaugurate a new US-funded complex that would house Palestinian courts, conceded that the Gaza Strip was hit by lawlessness and anarchy.
"Scenes of lawlessness in the Gaza Strip are very visible," he said. "We will soon launch a security operation to restore law and order and put an end to the presence of arms on the streets, car thefts and smuggling. Every resident must help us to restore law and order."
Abbas reiterated his commitment to holding parliamentary elections on time. "These elections won't be delayed," he said, referring to the January 25 vote. "We are working strenuously to ensure that the elections would be conducted in a fair and democratic fashion."
Abbas's remarks came as Hamas reaffirmed its adherence to the hudna, but on condition that Israel halted its attacks. "We are still committed to the hudna, but this does not mean that we would accept a situation where our fighters and people are being targeted," said a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip.
He said that the latest Israeli offensive, including the assassination of a number of Hamas and Fatah gunmen, was further proof that the Gaza Strip was still under Israeli control despite the disengagement.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of seeking to disrupt next month's parliamentary elections by stepping up its "aggression" on the Palestinians. "Any talk about extending the hudna [which expires at the end of the year], under the current circumstances, is irrational," he said. "How can we extend the hudna while Israel is launching an open war on us?"
On Friday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal announced that his movement would not agree to extend the hudna. "There's no room for another hudna," he said. "We've had enough of the previous hudna, where our prisoners remain in jail. There's no point in negotiating [with Israel] because it does not implement agreements.
Despite Mashaal's statements, Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip were quick to clarify that the movement would nevertheless accept a new truce on condition that Israel stopped its security operations. They said Hamas will agree to the extension of the truce so that it could participate in the parliamentary elections.
Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman, who helped broker the first truce earlier this year, was supposed to arrive in the Palestinian territories last week, but has postponed his visit because of the latest cycle of violence. Suleiman was hoping to invite all Palestinian factions, including the PA and Hamas, to a conference in Cairo to discuss extending the truce for an additional year.
Mashaal's remarks against the truce drew sharp criticism from the PA. The PA Interior Ministry condemned Mashaal's statements as a "violation of the Cairo agreement" that was reached between the different Palestinian groups earlier this year.
Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the statements violated the "national consensus." He added that all Palestinian parties should know that the truce was a "high national consensus" and that no Palestinian faction had the right to decide on it by itself. "There is only one political authority," he said.