Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today urged restraint and a
continuation of a week-long ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Israeli
forces and the Palestinian resistance, and called for an expansion of
the ceasefire to the West Bank. Israeli security officials, however,
have advised the Israeli cabinet to break the truce and continue their
daily attacks in the West Bank.
Abbas stated that the ceasefire, which he claimed to be successful despite Israeli forces killing at least four Palestinians in the West Bank since the ceasefire began last Sunday, paves the way for a return to negotiations and to the peace process with Israel.
"I hope that the Ceasefire will include the West Bank, so we can return to the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings [an agreement made in February 2005] signed by the Palestinian Leadership with the former Israeli Prime Minister Areil Sharon towards returning to the peace process," said Abbas in a joint press conference in Jericho with the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice met with both Abbas and the Israeli President Ehud Olmert in her short visit to the region this week.
Rice, for her part, expressed a commitment by the US to see a "just achievement" for the Palestinian people, which she said would come in the form of a two-state solution, with a viable, independent and democratic Palestinian state — although she did not specify whether that state would include a return of land illegally seized by Israel or the city of Jerusalem – two key issues for the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, inside Israel, the Israeli Cabinet met with military officials who advised a return to violence, and a continuation of the daily Israeli invasions and attacks in the Palestinian West Bank.
Israeli military sources reported that Palestinian resistance groups have not entirely adhered to the ceasefire, having fired 14 homemade shells into the Israeli desert from Gaza since the ceasefire was declared Sunday. The shells did not kill or hurt any Israelis. Palestinians point out that Israeli ceasefire violations have been much more severe – that at least five Palestinians have been killed, and a dozen more injured, by Israeli forces invading the West Bank. Among those killed are an elderly woman and a child.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated the the Prime Minister would be willing to extend the ceasefire, but only if the homemade shells fired by the Palestinian resistance come to a complete halt. Thousands of Palestinian security are in place in the border areas in Gaza to try to prevent shells from being fired by rogue factions into Israel.
But the military officials advising the Israeli Cabinet today advised against extending the ceasefire, saying that their ongoing invasions and attacks in the West Bank have actually prevented Palestinians who had planned to attack Israel.
Many of the Palestinians that have been taken prisoner in the Israeli raids have never been charged with anything, and maintain that Israel picked them up merely to maintain a pretense that their invasions are legitimate. With no way to present the evidence of their innocence in Israeli courts, these prisoners of war have no hope that they will be given a day in court to disprove that Israeli charge.