Promises Replace Mortar Shells in Gaza

Hamas terrorists promised to halt rocket fire and mortar shell attacks last night, and Israel ordered the army to hold fire. Abu Mazen is set to meet Bush in a few days.

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, | updated: 02:15

Palestinian terrorists from Gaza pounded Jewish communities with 57 shells and rockets over the past few days, causing damage but no injuries. Two more shells exploded Friday night, several hours before Hamas promised to stop the violence.

Israel's Vice Premier and Labor party leader Shimon Peres said he was pleased with the PA reaction to the Hamas shelling of Israeli targets. Peres spoke yesterday with PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) and reiterated Israel's oft-stated demand that the PA disarm terrorists, and Qurei repeated oft-stated promises to halt terror.

"I was very pleased that [Qurei] said that the PA will take all the necessary measures," Peres stated. He claimed that the rocket attacks on Jewish neighborhoods were prompted by a disagreement between Hamas and the PA, and that Israel will respond "with great restraint."

PA Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) also played down the barrage on Jewish communities. Referring to the 57 shells fired at Israeli homes, Abu Mazen said, "The events are minor and they have calmed down. I think that the situation has begun to come under control in Gaza. That is why this will not have any negative impact on my visit to America."

Abu Mazen is scheduled to meet U.S. President George W. Bush late this week, and has said he wants more American financial aid and political support.

The Hamas promise to halt the violence came within one day after American pleas for calm in the PA. The Hamas statement gives Abu Mazen the opportunity to try to convince Bush that he can halt terrorism.

Sharon, in an apparent attempt to avoid American criticism, agreed to more "good will" measures on Friday, in an effort to boost the PA. This, despite opposition from the General Security Services (Shin Bet). New GSS chief Yuval Diskin said warnings of terror attacks are on the rise, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accepted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's recommendation that Israel must support Abu Mazen. He said that allowing the PA government to weaken could prepare the ground for Hamas to govern the PA after legislative elections in July.

Sharon has proposed a meeting with PA leaders, but the two sides are not yet in agreement regarding the date. Qurei announced Saturday that he and Sharon will meet on June 7, the day after Jerusalem Unification Day. Sharon's office, however, insisted that no date has been finalized.