Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas canceled a planned visit to the Gaza Strip on Thursday for fear that Hamas militiamen might attack his convoy, PA officials here said. Meanwhile, Hamas announced an initiative to deploy Arab peace-keeping forces to stop the internecine fighting in the Strip.
Analysis: Who's fighting whom?
This is the first time that a Palestinian group has called for deploying Arab troops in the PA territories. The proposal is strongly opposed by Fatah.
"The Palestinian security forces have received information according to which Hamas was preparing some kind of an attack on President Abbas's convoy," the officials said. "The president has been advised not to travel to the Gaza Strip because of the warnings."
Abbas had been scheduled to meet in Gaza with Hamas leaders on ways of ending the fighting between the two movements.
Earlier this year, PA security officials claimed that they had discovered a booby-trapped underground tunnel near the Erez checkpoint. According to the officials, the tunnel had been dug by Hamas members who were planning to detonate the explosives against Abbas's convoy.
Abbas spends most of his time in Ramallah, visiting the Gaza Strip once or twice a month. His home and headquarters in Gaza City have been frequently attacked with missiles and rockets by Hamas militiamen.
Despite the cease-fire that was announced for 8 p.m. Wednesday evening, Fatah and Hamas militiamen continued to exchange
gunfire across the Strip.
Four Palestinians have been killed and 15 wounded since the cease-fire went into effect.
The PA Health Ministry announced that 47 people were killed and 210 were wounded in the internal fighting since the beginning of the week. Most of the victims are militiamen or security officers.
Three of Thursday's casualties were killed in Rafah, when Fatah gunmen fired at the funeral of Hamas members who were killed by an IAF attack on a Hamas base a day earlier.
Outlining the request for intervention, Ahmed Yusef, political adviser to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said: "We are holding contacts with some Arab countries to discuss the possibility of bringing an Arab security force to the Gaza Strip to help impose law and order and to reconstruct the Palestinian security forces. We need another Mecca agreement to solve the security problems that were not addressed in the original agreement."
Yusef did not say which Arab countries were being asked to help.
The Hamas official called for ousting the Fatah commanders of the PA security forces, whom he branded collaborators with Israel.
"The heads of the security forces are responsible for the anarchy and internal fighting," he said. "They are acting on their own and without referring to the government. These collaborators must be removed from their jobs."
Fahmi Za'arir, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, rejected the Hamas initiative, saying the Palestinians did't need Arab state forces to end the fighting. He pointed out that an Egyptian security team had been operating in the Gaza Strip for the past three years.
Maher Miqdad, a Fatah spokesman in the Gaza Strip, strongly condemned the Hamas idea and called on the Islamist movement to relinquish control of the PA.
"If Hamas can't offer the Palestinians anything good, then they must leave," he said. "We have a lot of respect for our Arab brothers, but there is no need for Arab armies in the Gaza Strip. Hamas should leave and allow those who are capable of running the affairs of the Palestinians to fulfill their duties."