‘The resistance did not begin with a decision by Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], and it won’t end with a decision by him.’
Sami Abu Zuhri | a spokesman for Hamas
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Facing strong pressure from Israel, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, on Monday ordered his security forces to try to prevent attacks against Israel, a move that could put him on a collision course with armed Palestinian factions.
Abbas also ordered his security forces to investigate an assault on a Gaza Strip border crossing that killed six Israelis last week.
Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, described Abbas’ move as “a small but positive sign.” Israel did not lift the threat it made Sunday of a possible large-scale incursion into Gaza to stop rocket and mortar attacks there, but any such offensive appeared to be on hold, according to Israeli news reports.
Abbas, who was sworn in Saturday, and his Cabinet officials would not give details about how security forces might act against the militant groups, and there was no indication that any such action had started.
The previous Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, resisted showdowns with the armed groups, and Israel says it has been far more common for the security forces to turn a blind eye or even take part in attacks.
Abbas has publicly opposed attacks on Israel as counterproductive. But a genuine crackdown on groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad could quickly put him in a full-fledged confrontation because the groups have sworn to continue their attacks. Abbas says he wants to reach an agreement with the factions through dialogue, but he says Israel also must accept a cease-fire.
One senior Palestinian security official said the security services had not received new orders from Abbas and were waiting for him to visit Gaza this week to discuss the matter.
Abbas, commonly known as Abu Mazen, also is expected to meet the armed factions in Gaza. They have been talking with him, though they reject a halt to attacks. The militant group Hamas said it would press ahead with its attacks, and more rockets and mortars were fired Monday.
“The resistance did not begin with a decision by Abu Mazen, and it won’t end with a decision by him,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas. “There is no way such a decision will be implemented in the field because the resistance is a project for all the Palestinian people.”
The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.