PA rejects call to disarm militias

Chairman Mahmoud Abbas: Stop meddling in our internal affairs.

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday rejected an appeal from the Quartet to dismantle armed militias and called on the international community to stop meddling in the Palestinians' internal affairs. Ministers of the Quartet the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union said in a joint statement Tuesday that following Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip, Palestinians needed to "dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructures." PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the appeal, saying the Palestinians knew how to handle their own affairs. "With regard to the issue of the armed Palestinian groups and our dealings with them, this is an internal affair," he told reporters during a tour of Rafah. "We know more and are more capable than others of dealing with our brothers." Abbas called for an end to the presence of armed militiamen in Palestinian streets. Terror groups have, however, promised Abbas to end all military parades after Saturday, a Hamas official said Wednesday. The official, Said Siam, said the groups made the commitment in a meeting with Abbas in Gaza City. Abbas has been struggling for control of Gaza following Israel's pullout, completed last week. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have staged several large rallies featuring gunmen firing in the air. Siam said the commitment did not mean the groups would give up their weapons. "We will talk with these groups and tell them that we've had enough," he said. "We want our people to live a normal life like any other people." According to Saeb Erekat, the PA's chief negotiator, the Quartet had called on Israel several times to stop building settlements and the security fence, though Israel refused to comply. "The Palestinian Authority wants the Quartet to turn its words into deeds," he said. Hatem Abdel Kader, a legislator representing the ruling Fatah faction, condemned the Quartet demand as a "flagrant intervention" in Palestinian affairs. "The Quartet is not authorized to make such a demand," he said. "We were hoping that the Quartet would call on Israel to disarm armed groups that participated in the elections for the Knesset. Why are they asking us to dismantle the armed groups while the settlements are full of armed people?" Hamas accused the Quartet of incitement and interfering in internal Palestinian affairs. "We see the Quartet demand as an attempt to drive a wedge between the Palestinians," said a statement issued by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. "We urge the Palestinian Authority to reject this incitement and attempt to trigger internecine fighting. The Quartet should have called on the Israeli prime minister to withdraw from all the Palestinian territories and to release all the [Palestinian] prisoners in Israeli jails." Izzadin Kassam, the military wing of Hamas, announced Wednesday that it was planning to exhibit its weapons at the former settlement of Netzarim.