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THE WORLD

Abbas and Militants Meet in Gaza

As the Palestinian leader seeks to halt attacks, a bomber blows himself up, killing an Israeli.

January 19, 2005|Ken Ellingwood | Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with militants in the Gaza Strip late Tuesday in an effort to persuade them to cease attacks on Israelis.

But the visit, coming amid stern Israeli warnings of possible military action, was marred by a suicide bombing at a Gaza checkpoint that killed an Israeli security agent. The militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded at least seven Israelis.

Abbas met in Gaza with Hamas leaders. Hamas described the session as positive and said it would consider a cease-fire, but it did not announce an agreement.

Abbas, who took over as Palestinian Authority president Saturday, is expected to be in Gaza for several days of meetings aimed at getting Palestinian factions to stop attacks.

He has called on Palestinian groups to end their violent resistance against Israel, but they have defied him by launching rockets from Gaza at Israeli targets and carrying out other attacks. An assault at a Gaza border crossing last week killed six Israeli civilians.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has authorized the army to take "any action" deemed necessary to stop the firing of crude Kassam rockets from Palestinian towns in Gaza. The remarks prompted speculation that Israel might soon begin a major military operation in Gaza.

Sharon, under international pressure to hold off, warned again Tuesday that Abbas did not need more time to act.

In a possible sign that Palestinian authorities planned to clamp down, a top security official said after meeting with Abbas that forces in Gaza would begin deploying in the areas bordering Israel to stem the rocket fire.

Abbas had earlier ordered his forces to try to prevent attacks against Israel.

Maj. Gen. Abdel Razek Majaydeh said an "arrangement is underway to deploy national security forces on the borders within two days to prevent violations," Reuters news agency reported from Gaza.

Tuesday's bombing, at a crossroads leading to Jewish settlements, killed an agent of Shin Bet, the domestic security agency. The bomber detonated an explosive device that was apparently hidden in his clothes.

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