GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories, March 27, 2011 ( KATAKAMI.COM / Channel News Asia / AFP ) : Palestinian factions met in the Gaza Strip on Saturday to discuss renewing a de facto truce with Israel after a week of bloody confrontations, militants attending the meeting said, Channel News Asia reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said on Friday that Israel was ready to act with “great force” in response to the week’s rocket and mortar attacks, which led to retaliatory Israeli strikes killing eight Palestinians.
One Palestinian faction member said the Gaza meeting would probably “stress again a commitment to a field truce at the moment the Israeli occupation commits to it.”
A source close to the meeting said “the issue of returning stability and calm to Gaza after a series of Israeli aggressions will be discussed.”
Hamas already pledged on Wednesday to “to restore calm” in the coastal enclave.
“We confirm that our stance in the government is set on protecting the stability,” Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said in a statement.
“We will work to restore the field conditions that were prevalent over the last few weeks.”
And Ismail Haniya, the Hamas premier in Gaza, said he had been making contacts with other factions “with a view to Gaza avoiding new confrontations with the Israeli occupation.”
In particular, he said he had spoken with Ramadan Shallah, the Damascus based chief of Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for many of the hundreds of projectiles fired on Israel in the past week.
Netanyahu said Israel had been “subjected to bouts of terror and rocket attacks” and that “we stand ready to act with great force and great determination to put a stop to it.”
“Any civilised society will not tolerate such wanton attacks on its civilians,” he said.
Friday was calm, but Palestinian militants fired two rockets from Gaza into Israel overnight and damaged a house, where Israeli media said eight sleeping people were unharmed.
Also an explosion seriously damaged a soft drinks factory in the Zeitun neighbourhood of Gaza city, Palestinian security officials said, blaming an Israeli tank shell.
But the military said none of its forces were operating in the area at the time.
As Netanyahu spoke on Friday, Defence Minister Ehud Barak toured the Gaza border with army chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz saying calm seemed to be returning to the area.
And he indicated that if the rocket attacks stopped, Israel would also halt its strikes into Gaza.
“We don’t intend to let the terror organisations again disturb the order but we will do all we need to to return the (military) activity to the border line itself,” he said.
In other developments, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas held positive talks in the West Bank city of Ramallah with Hamas officials to discuss efforts to reconcile his Fatah party with Hamas, sources on both sides said.
Last week, Abbas responded favourably to an invitation from Hamas to engage in talks that would end the split and lead to the formation of an interim government.
Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since the early 1990s. Tensions boiled over in 2007, when the enmity erupted into bloodshed that saw the Islamists kick their secular rivals out of Gaza.
Since then, Gaza has been effectively cut off from the West Bank, which is under the control of Fatah, and repeated attempts at reconciliation between the groups have led nowhere.
The disunity of the Palestinians has prevented them from taking a common stance in peace talks with Israel, which are now off the table.
In a visit to Israel this week, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Washington firmly backed Israel’s right to respond both to the rocket fire and the Jerusalem bombing, which he described as “repugnant acts.”
But he suggested Israel should tread carefully or risk derailing the course of popular unrest sweeping Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East.
Gates pressed Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take “bold action” for peace despite soaring tensions, saying political upheaval in the region offered an opportunity.
Israel’s leaders have appeared reluctant to be dragged into another bloody war with Hamas, especially as they lack international support for any new offensive on Gaza. (*)