kassam unit 88.
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In the wake of Israel's escalated response, Palestinians living in the northern Gaza Strip have appealed to the new Palestinian Authority government to take immediate action to prevent gunmen from firing Kassam rockets from their neighborhoods at Israel, a senior Hamas official said Tuesday.
He said the appeal was made in an urgent letter sent to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh by scores of Palestinians living in Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and other areas that have been targeted by Israeli artillery over the past few weeks.
"They are demanding that we issue instructions to the security forces to prevent the rocket attacks," the official told The Jerusalem Post. "But how can we stop the rockets when we don't have control over most of these forces?" he asked.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas recently decided to place most of the PA's security forces under his direct control, in a clear attempt to block Hamas from controlling them. The National Security Force, which is supposed to prevent gunmen from firing rockets at Israel, reports to Abbas and not Interior Minister Said Siam.
According to the Hamas official, Abbas's ongoing attempt to cut the powers of the Hamas cabinet is largely responsible for the growing state of lawlessness and anarchy in the Gaza Strip. "These security forces don't know who their commanders are," he added. "They're not receiving clear instructions from anyone."
Earlier this week, in yet another attempt to curb Hamas's powers, Abbas issued a "presidential decree" in which he appointed Rashid Abu Shabak, a former PA security chief and Fatah leader, as "director-general of internal security." As such, the official pointed out, "Abu Shabak and Abbas are now responsible for the security chaos and only they have the power to stop the rocket attacks."
The new PA cabinet is expected to hold a meeting via videoconference in Ramallah and Gaza City on Wednesday to discuss the latest deterioration and ways of calming the situation. Haniyeh is expected to brief his ministers on the complaints he has received from many residents in the northern Gaza Strip against the Fatah and Islamic Jihad cells that are firing rockets from residential areas.
Another Hamas official told the Post that his movement was interested in calming the situation so that it could deal with the other problems facing the Palestinians, first and foremost its severe financial crisis. However, the official complained that those who are seeking to escalate the situation are also trying to undermine the Hamas cabinet.
"Some of these groups are acting against the interests of the Palestinians," he charged. "These rockets are endangering the lives of many innocent people who are being attacked with Israeli shells."
Hani al-Masri, a prominent columnist and senior official with the PA's Ministry of Information, on Tuesday called for an end to the rocket attacks on Israel. Noting that the homemade rockets had little effect on Israel's security, he said the Palestinians were making a mistake by resorting to military means in their struggle with Israel.
"Israel has enormous military superiority over us and enjoys the backing of the US," Masri said. "This is not a war between two armies, but between an occupation and a defenseless people."
Masri urged the Hamas-controlled cabinet to take a clear position regarding the rocket attacks "so as not to give Israel an excuse to pursue its aggression on the Palestinians." Hamas, he added, is in an embarrassing situation because it can't call for an end to the rocket and suicide attacks that it started during the intifada.
Abbas, meanwhile, said Tuesday that the situation in the Palestinian areas was worsening after decisions by the EU to cut off aid.
"The situation is deteriorating in a dramatic and tragic way," Abbas told reporters here. "All countries have cut off their aid to the Palestinians under the pretext that the money is going to the government. But in fact it does not go to the government. It goes to the Palestinian people and human services."
Abbas said he was in touch with the US administration and other countries to persuade them to resume their financial aid to the Palestinians. He also expressed his readiness to return to the negotiating table with Israel on the basis of the road map plan for peace in the Middle East.
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