OPT: Abbas to hold talks with militants in Gaza

RAMALLAH, Jul 14, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to head to Gaza later Thursday to hold talks with leaders of various factions, including the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Islamic Jihad (Holy War), official said.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), told reporters that the talks "are aimed at strengthening agreements reached in Cairo between the factions and the PNA, mainly on the period of calmness."

"President Abbas demanded to hold an urgent meeting with the factions in Gaza following a suicide bombing attack that was carried out in Netanya on Tuesday," said Abu Rudeineh.

An Islamic Jihad militant from the city of Tulkarm blew himself up on Tuesday in the nearby Israeli town of Netanya, killing five Israelis and wounding some 90 others.

The suicide bombing attack dealt a heavy blow to a ceasefire agreement Abbas managed to conclude with major Palestinian factions in March, which demands the factions observe a one-year calmness with Israel.

Abbas strongly condemned the Netanya attack as "a crime against the Palestinian people," asserting "no sensible man could do such a thing on the eve of the (Israeli) pullout from Gaza and northern West Bank."

Israel insists that militant groups be disarmed as a condition to restart the long-stalled peace process with the Palestinians, while Abbas favors a policy of cooperation toward the groups instead of confrontation for fear of an internal conflict.