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Abu Mazen Reaffirms Commitment to Security

Abu Mazen Reaffirms Importance of Committing to National Security and People's Interests

RAMALLAH, Palestine, January 18, 2005 (IPC + Agencies) - - President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) asserted that everybody should re-evaluate and assess their methods based on the facts and the requirements to maintain national security and people's interests.

Palestine National Authority Cabinet.

Abu Mazen's remarks came during a joint meeting at the presidential premises in Ramallah City, which included the Council of Ministers and the National Security Council; the first to be headed by Abu Mazen since he officially took office last Saturday.

Security sources reported that Abu Mazen will be heading to Gaza Strip today to start a the dialogue with Palestinian factions, and gave instructions to the security services to maintain the security situation and ensure safety to the civilians.

Among the discussed procedures to maintain security is to deploy Palestinian security officers at major hotspots in Gaza Strip, and to discuss a deal to absorb Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Fateh movement's military wing) into the different security services. Senior officials said such procedures will be declared in due time.

Azzam Al Ahmad, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, told Al Ayyam newspaper that President Abbas has decided to leave to Gaza early in order to kick off the inter-Palestinian dialogue. "President Abbas will also supervise the situation with the security services in order to ensure that it will perform its duties fully," Al Ahmad said.

The Minister also stressed that in order for these procedures to succeed, the Israeli occupation must at least approve to a mutual ceasefire and stop extrajudicial executions that gives an excuse for a retaliation by Palestinian factions, disclosing that another plan for the West Bank is also being formed to maintain security in case of an Israeli withdrawal.

He also added that Abbas didn't specify a period for his stay in Gaza Strip, but considered that if Israel agrees to a mutual ceasefire, the Palestinian factions will agree to the proposed program. He added, "I'm sure that if there were Israeli confirmations to stop the Palestinian factions will agree, but we question Sharon's intentions."

On the other hand, the Israeli government described the procedures as "a minor step", and that it was not enough to resume the contacts they broke with President Abbas after six Israeli soldiers were killed in an attack on a military post near Karni commercial crossing, east of Gaza Strip.

"Abu Mazen and the government have gave specific instructions to the security services' leaders to prevent all forms of violence, including the launching of attacks against Israelis," Qaddoura Fares, Minister of State, told Reuters news agency.

The Council of Ministers also welcomed the calls made yesterday by PLO Executive Committee to stop military actions that "damage the national interests and provide excuses for the Israeli standpoint that wants to continue the destabilization of the Palestinian situation."

At the same context, the Council of Ministers called on the Palestinian factions to exert extra efforts to succeed the inter-Palestinian dialogue and reach a ceasefire, which will enable the Palestinian security services from fulfilling their tasks in maintaining security and safety.

Israeli Operations
Furthermore, Israeli forces have been reportedly preparing to launch an unprecedented military campaign in Gaza Strip, as reported by Haaretz newspaper.

The Israeli newspaper quoted a high-ranking Israeli military officer in its online edition today as saying that Israel will launch an unprecedented campaign in Gaza Strip, if the Palestinian National Authority continued "abstaining" from cracking down on militant Palestinian factions.

Also, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper also added today that the Israeli Chief of Staffs, Moshe Yaalon, and a number of high-ranking military officials will present several military plans before the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "to stop launching 'Qassam' rockets", pointing out that one of these plans details a "rolling campaign" to take over large areas of Gaza Strip.

The newspaper continued by reporting that Sharon intended to "deepen" his involvement in the decision-making process with regards to the Israeli military operations.

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