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Sunday, November 26, 2006

PA security forces begin deploying in Gaza to prevent Qassam fire

Last update - 15:09 26/11/2006

PA security forces begin deploying in Gaza to prevent Qassam fire

By Avi Issacharoff, Aluf Benn, Jack Khoury and Amos Harel, Haaretz
Correspondents and Agencies

Palestinian Authority security forces began deploying along the Gaza Strip's
border with Israel on Sunday, in order to prevent Palestinian militants from
firing Qassam rockets at Israel in violation of the cease-fire.

A short time earlier, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ordered the
heads of Palestinian security forces to ensure that Gaza militants respect the
truce, Palestinian officials said.

Three Qassam rockets hit Israel in the first few hours after a truce between
Israel and Palestinian militant factions in the Gaza Strip went into effect,
causing no damage or injuries. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday said that Israel would display "patience
and restraint" in the face of Palestinian violations of a cease-fire that went
into effect earlier in the day.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said all major militant factions in
the Gaza Strip had reaffirmed their commitment to the truce, Reuters reported.

"Contacts were made with the political leaderships of the factions and there
is a reaffirmation of the commitment of what has been agreed to," Haniyeh

The military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for
continued Qassam rocket fire on Israel in the hours after the truce took hold.

Speaking at a high school in the Bedouin town of Rahat, Olmert said that
Israel must give the truce a chance and pledged that "the government of Israel
will not miss this opportunity for calm."

It was not immediately clear whether there was an explicit order by Abbas to
use force to stop rocket fire by militants.

"President Abbas has given his instructions to security chiefs to implement
the understanding of calm," one of the officials said.

Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said in response to the continued
Qassam fire: "Let's hope that's just the problems of the beginning. But if
Israel is attacked, we will respond. If there are Palestinian factions that
are not part of the cease-fire, it's hard to see how the cease-fire will

Hamas, Islamic Jihad fire Qassam rockets despite truce
Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza officially began the cease-fire at
6 A.M., following an agreement reached between Palestinian Authority Chairman
Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian factions. Abbas called Olmert on Saturday to
inform him of the deal.

But three Qassam rockets hit Israel in the first few hours after the truce
went into effect, causing no damage or injuries.

One of the rockets hit Sderot, another fell in an open area north of the
western Negev town, and the third landed close to a local kibbutz.

A senior official in Jerusalem said Israel would wait several hours to see if
the attacks were isolated breaches or a full-scale violation of the agreement
before deciding whether to respond.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to
speak to the media.

Palestinian lawmaker Saeb Erekat, an Abbas confidant, condemned the new rocket

"This is a violation and [Abbas] calls it a violation, and urges all to abide
by the agreement that should be honored for the interest of the Palestinian
people," he said.

Islamic Jihad and Hamas military wings said the rocket fire was in response to
the arrest of two Hamas operatives in Hebron, despite earlier pledges not to
violate the truce in response to West Bank incidents and despite the fact that
the arrests took place prior to 6 A.M.

Hamas officials also said that the Qassams were fired because Israel had not
removed all of its forces from Gaza, a claim that Israel denied.

The Palestinian Authority later released a statement confirming that all
Israel Defense Forces troops had indeed withdrawn from the Strip.

A spokesman for Islamic Jihad said his group fired rockets into Israel at 8
A.M., two hours after the start of the truce, and denied his group had signed
on to the cease-fire agreement.

Despite the claims of responsibility, a spokesman for the Hamas-led
Palestinian government, Ghazi Hamad, said all the armed groups had committed
to the agreement, and any violations were rogue acts.

"There is a 100 percent effort to make this work, but there is no guarantee of
100 percent results," Hamad said.

The IDF said all troops were withdrawn from Gaza in the hours before the
ceasefire began. Streets in northern Gaza were empty immediately after the
truce took hold.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday morning that any attempt to fire into
Israeli territories would be considered a breach of the cease-fire and treated
with severity.

According to Peretz, Israel is interested in quiet, but would not accept
attacks on its citizens.

Palestinian militants in Gaza also fired at least three Qassam rockets at
Israel in the minutes before the cease-fire went into effect. Hamas claimed
responsibility for the attacks.

One of the first salvo hit a house in Sderot, causing damage but no injuries.
The other two Qassams landed at the entrances to kibbutzim in the western
Negev, causing no damage or injuries.

A senior security source said on Saturday that military pressure and increased
military actions in recent weeks had led the Palestinian factions and terror
organizations to agree to a cease-fire.

After his conversation with Abbas, Olmert consulted with ministers including
Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and the security establishment, and
told Abbas that since Israel had operated in the Gaza Strip in response to
terror, Israel would stop its military activities and remove its forces from
Gaza in response to the ceasefire in the hope it would hold and serve both

Government sources in Jerusalem said Saturday that if the cease-fire held, it
would bring forward a meeting between Olmert and Abbas.

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