Erekat: Abbas, Olmert to discuss Gaza

PM holds emergency meeting with defense officials over ongoing rocket attacks in southern Israel.

Dog approaches kassam 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Dog approaches kassam 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abba will meet on Monday to discuss renewed fighting in the Gaza Strip, chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Saturday. During the meeting, Abbas will also bring up continued Israeli settlement expansion, Erekat added. The two leaders have met regularly for the past year as part of US-backed peace talks. However, all sides have acknowledged that they will miss the end-of-year target for a peace deal. Erekat said the two leaders will continue meeting to talk about bilateral concerns. On Friday, Olmert said that the government will continue to put pressure on Hamas until ongoing rocket barrages on southern Israel are halted. He called the attacks a "fundamental violation" of a five-month cease-fire with Hamas, and said Israel would continue to step up pressure on Hamas by keeping border crossings closed and through other unspecified means. Olmert held an emergency meeting with senior officials from the defense echelon including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi in Tel Aviv. The emergency meeting came in response to a barrage of 16 rockets and a mortar shell that was fired by Palestinians on Friday alone. Five of the rockets launched were Grad-type Katyushas. Barak, who had earlier visited Sderot, said that the defense establishment would continue to act and protect southerners and IDF troops. He went on to say, however, that "if the Gaza factions want to resume the truce, we will consider it in a positive light." Earlier Friday, senior Jerusalem officials said that if Hamas stopped firing rockets immediately, the truce could be reestablished. However, they warned that if the attacks continue, Israel's response would be "harsh and painful." They also predicted that a major confrontation with Hamas was "just a matter of time," Army Radio reported. Meanwhile, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai called for an urgent Security Cabinet meeting to discuss the resumption of rocket fire from Gaza. "In practice, there is no truce, and we cannot tolerate a situation in which Sderot and Gaza-belt residents are abandoned," Yishai told Army Radio on Friday morning. "There is a deterioration that must be dealt with." Likud MK Gilad Erdan called for a resumption of targeted assassinations against heads of terror organizations. Speaking to Army Radio, Erdan said that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Barak were "burying their heads in the sand" and said Likud was demanding that they "stop this weakness and hesitancy, announce the end of the truce and start targeting, personally and directly, the heads of terror groups, including Hamas."