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Abbas urges Palestinian militants to follow truce
Updated: 2005-12-28 08:38

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Palestinian factions to halt rocket fire and renew a truce that expires at year's end and Israel struck the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to try to stop the rockets.

But militant leaders who met Abbas in Gaza blamed Israel for the violence and said there was little chance that they would continue their commitment to the informal ceasefire into the new year.

"We are calling on all sides to be committed to calm," top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters after the late night meetings. "We regard calm as in the higher interest."

Violence has been growing since Israel completed its evacuation of troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in September after 38 years of occupation. The bloodshed has soured hopes the pullout could revive peacemaking.

A major surge of fighting could also disrupt, or even delay, Palestinian parliamentary elections that are due to be held on January 25.

Abbas urges Palestinian militants to follow truce
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah December 27, 2005. [Reuters]
After meeting Abbas, a leader of Islamic Jihad, which has carried out suicide bombings despite the truce, said he did not believe that there would be an extension to the "period of calm" that militants agreed to follow at a Cairo summit.

"When the time is up there will be a general position, but calm will most likely not be extended," said Khaled al-Batsh.

The most recent flare-up has been concentrated around northern Gaza, from where militants have fired rockets into Israel in what they call retaliation for raids in the occupied West Bank as well as strikes on Gaza.

Israeli planes have attacked targets in the Gaza Strip and the army has threatened to impose a no-go zone within an area used for firing rockets. Israel has said the buffer would be enforced with shelling and air strikes, not ground troops.

Aircraft fired missiles into the northern Gaza Strip early on Wednesday. There were no casualties. The army said it had targeted three routes used by militants firing rockets.

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