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Abbas Warns PA Factions: Attacks Will Draw Israeli Response

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas warned Arab terrorist groups that they would only have themselves to blame if continued attacks on Israel draw IDF retaliation against the Gaza Strip.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 6/20/2006, 6:23 PM / Last Update: 6/20/2006, 9:01 PM

In a statement released by his office on Tuesday, Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) "calls on all armed groups to cease firing rockets immediately and to fully respect the truce" agreed upon by Hamas and Fatah early last year. "Any faction that does not respect the truce will bear the entire responsibility for the destruction and casualties that will result from an Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip," the statement said.

Abbas's public warning may have been motivated by statements by government ministers in Israel indicating that Israel's policy of restraint in response to attacks from Gaza is coming to an end.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) on Monday repeated warnings that if Sderot and the western Negev continue to be targeted by Kassam rockets from Gaza, then Hamas leaders should be concerned for their own safety. Hanegbi told reporters, following a briefing from Defense Minister Amir Peretz, that Peretz is still seeking to halt attacks using less severe means before ordering a major IDF offensive.

During a visit to Sderot on Monday, however, Defense Minister Peretz promised a "dramatic change... in a number of hours or perhaps in a few dozen hours" if the rocket attacks are not halted.

Tuesday evening, in an operation that can not be said to represent a "dramatic change" in Israeli counter-terrorism policy, an IDF missile destroyed a car carrying members of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorist organization in Gaza. Three people were killed in the strike, including one of the terrorists. Other occupants of the car escaped. The counter-terrorism strike was carried out in the Jabalya refugee camp, in northern Gaza.

Later this week, PA leader Abbas is to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the margins of a Nobel laureates conference hosted by Jordanian King Abdullah II. This follows Abbas's meetings on Sunday with Abdullah II in Jordan and with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sinai's Sharm El-Sheikh resort.