Erekat: Despite violation, truce can and must hold
Annan concerned over Qassam strikes day into cease-fire; IDF kills two Palestinians in West Bank.
Palestinian lawmaker Saeb Erekat on Monday condemned a Qassam rocket strike on Israel from Gaza earlier in the day, but said that the day-old cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians "can work, and I believe we have to make it work."
Speaking to Channel 2 Television, Erekat called for patience regarding the truce violations. "I admit there were Palestinian violations, [and] let me condemn them," he said.
"I know how much trust you have of us, but what other road do we have?" he asked. "This can work and I believe we have to make it work."
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh also urged Israel on Monday to refrain from its operations in the West Bank.
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired two Qassam rockets at Israel on Monday, despite a day-old cease-fire that was intended to end five months of violence in the area, Palestinian witnesses and police said.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed concern Monday over the continued rocket fire, Israel Radio reported.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks.
Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld confirmed the rockets were fired at Israel, but said police were unsure where they had landed. The rescue services said there were no reports of injuries from the rockets.
Earlier, Israel Defense Forces troops in the West Bank shot dead at least one member of a militant group with ties to Gaza's Popular Resistance Committees early Monday, raising concerns that there could be a violent response from the Strip.
The fragile truce between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza took hold on Sunday. Some militant factions have warned that they would respond with attacks to all casualties caused by the IDF in the West Bank, and that the truce would collapse unless Israel also halts military operations in the whole of the territories.
The army said troops operating early Monday in the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya shot two armed Palestinians.
Palestinian sources identified the two killed as 22-year-old Abdel Razek Bahar, a central militant within the Popular Resistance Committees, and 55-year-old Fatma Nezal.
An army spokesman said that Israeli forces patrolling Qabatiya, near the city of Jenin, had come under fire several times by Palestinian militants. The troops said they had hit two Palestinians in one exchange, he said.
An official from the local Salah A-Din Committees group said that one of the dead was a local militant leader, while the other was a woman passer-by. "We shall give an answer to this, both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip," the official, Yasser Mazal, said.
Palestinian security sources said it was unclear if the dead woman had been armed.
The IDF also said it arrested a total of 15 alleged militants in overnight operations throughout the West Bank.
Shots were fired at IDF soldiers operating in Nablus, but no casualties were reported.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he hoped the truce could apply to the West Bank. Palestinian militant groups have demanded Israel halt attacks in all Palestinian territories.
In army circles, and particularly at IDF Southern Command, there is a great deal of skepticism about the agreement. Senior officers have warned that without enforcement and an end to the smuggling of weapons through tunnels from Sinai to Rafah, the cease-fire is a dangerous development.
The officers maintain that Hamas is making enormous efforts to arm itself. They add that when the organization thinks it is ready, its members will resume the violence and then its military capabilities will pose a greater threat to IDF troops.
Senior security sources in Israel pointed out Sunday that leaders in militant groups spoke of a cease-fire only in terms of the Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, and did not commit themselves to stopping other forms of attacks in other parts of the territories.
Palestinian Authority security forces began deploying along the Gaza Strip's border with Israel on Sunday, in order to prevent Palestinian militants from firing Qassam rockets at Israel in violation of the cease-fire.
The IDF said all troops were withdrawn from Gaza in the hours before the ceasefire began. Streets in northern Gaza were empty immediately after the truce took hold.
Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza officially began the cease-fire at 6 A.M., Sunday, following an agreement reached between Abbas and the Palestinian factions. Abbas called Olmert on Saturday to inform him of the deal.
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