In a telephone conversation with expatriate Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman demanded that Mashaal's fighters hold their fire and desist from attacks on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' presidential compound, Israel Radio reported Wednesday. Suleiman also spoke with Abbas in an attempt to bring an end to the fierce insurgence of violence in the Palestinian Authority territories. According to the report, Cairo blamed external elements with igniting the fighting, hinting that Iran was behind the escalation in Gaza.
Is it time for UN peacekeepers in Gaza? (op-ed)
In an interview with the London based Al-Hayat , senior Fatah official Samir Mashharawi was more explicit in his claims that both Syria and Iran were behind Hamas' attempted coup. In the interview, cited by Israel Radio, Mashharawi claimed that the two countries had transferred millions of Dollars to Hamas, and that the Islamic group was using the money against the Palestinians people in trying to establish a "Hamas state" in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has no intention of going into Gaza to aid the pragmatic Palestinian forces against the extremists, but "if Gaza falls into the hands of Hamas it will have regional implications," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday.
Olmert made his comments at a meeting with visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Israel was "carefully watching" the developments in Gaza.
"The situation in Gaza is troubling and worrying, specifically in relation to the ability of the pragmatic forces in the Palestinian Authority to stand up to the steps taken by the extremists, and also in regard to the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip," Olmert said, according to a statement issued by his office.
Olmert also called on the West to take immediate action to "change the situation in Gaza" and said that serious consideration should be given to the introduction of a UNIFIL-type international force along the Philadelphi corridor between Gaza and Egypt to prevent the continued smuggling of arms to Hamas.
This marked the first time that Olmert has publicly backed this idea, first broached a few weeks ago by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
European officials have said the European Union would only discuss the idea if it received formal requests from all the parties involved.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office would not say Tuesday whether Israel had received any urgent requests over the last few days to allow weaponry into Gaza to strengthen Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Reflecting concern that the intra-Palestinian violence would lead to an upsurge in attacks on Sderot, as was the case some three weeks ago when the Hamas-Fatah violence re-erupted, Olmert said that "Israel would defend itself and its citizens against any aggressive action from terrorist groups."
However, he made clear that the IDF would not get involved in the fighting to help out the "moderate" Palestinian forces.
The security cabinet, meanwhile, is scheduled to hold its weekly meeting on Wednesday, but rather than dealing with the situation in Gaza, the issue on the agenda is the establishment of a "National Disaster Administration" to unite and streamline all the civilian rescue emergency services - Israel Police, Magen David Adom and Fire and Rescue Service - with the IDF during times of war.
The meeting is also expected to deal with a reorganization of the Home Front command to make it more effective.