Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fat chance

Abbas urges militants to follow truce

Full article on Reuters:

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

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 due to be held on January 25.

After meeting Abbas, a leader of Islamic Jihad, which has carried out suicide bombings despite the truce, said he did not believe 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.