Abbas warns militants he will use force to keep truce

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The Independent Online

The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to use force against militants who violate thetruce with Israel and pledged to ensure quiet during Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements this summer.

The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to use force against militants who violate thetruce with Israel and pledged to ensure quiet during Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements this summer.

His warning came as 10,000 Israelis streamed into one of the West Bank settlements due to be evacuated to protest against the pullout. The rally, far smaller than organisers had expected, followed a protest by a Gaza settlement bloc on Wednesday that was also smaller than planned. Mr Abbas has been under heavy pressure from Israel and the United States to crack down on militants, who had a relatively free hand under the late Yasser Arafat. Mr Abbas has said he prefers to negotiate with the militants, who are viewed as resistance heroes by many Palestinians.

Most of the militant groups have agreed to observe the truce with Israel, declared in February. There has been a sharp drop in violence, but militants have fired rockets and homemade missiles at Jewish settlements in Gaza in recent weeks in an attempt to prove that they are driving Israel out of Gaza under fire. Militants fired an anti-tank missile at a Gaza settlement yesterday and attacked army posts with gunfire and a mortar, but there were no injuries.

Mr Abbas told Palestinian police such violence copuld not be tolerated in his toughest warning yet to militants. "Whoever wants to sabotage [the truce] with rocket-fire or shooting must be stopped by us, even if that requires using force. There is a national consensus regarding the calm, and whoever leaves this consensus will be struck by an iron fist.

"We have to give them [the Israelis] a calm departure," he added.

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