Senior UN Official: PA Must Do More to Ensure Factions Keep Cease-fire

UN particularly concerned over serious escalation by Palestinian militants in rocket, mortar attacks on Israeli targets.

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UNITED NATIONS - The Palestinian Authority must do more to ensure all Palestinian factions keep alive a fragile cease-fire and end all violence, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Friday.

The world body was particularly concerned over a serious escalation by Palestinian militants in rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli targets in recent weeks, said Kieran Prendergast, the undersecretary-general for political affairs.

Israel has also recently resumed targeting Palestinian militants from the air whom it suspected were engaged in suspicious activity, Prendergast said, reminding both sides of the need to take special care to protect civilian bystanders.

While there has been serious violence on both sides, this has not yet resulted in a prolonged breakdown of the tenuous calm between Israelis and Palestinians over the past four months, the UN official said during the council's regular monthly briefing on the Middle East crisis.

"There is evidence of a serious effort on the Palestinian side to maintain the calm and, on the Israeli side, of determination not to overreact to isolated incidents," Prendergast said. But he was concerned some Palestinian factions had threatened to stop observing the cease-fire.

"We expect the Palestinian Authority to exert greater efforts to impose its authority on all Palestinian groups - including the militants - to establish law and order, to ensure the endurance of the current cease-fire and to guarantee an end to all violence," he said.

At the same time, he encouraged Israel to do more to help the PA carry out its responsibilities, through closer security coordination and other measures designed to encourage mutual trust.

Wolfensohn explores fundraising for Palestinians The Quartet's special envoy for the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip hopes to raise an aid package of as much as $3 billion to help Palestinians after the pullout, a U.S. official said on Friday.

The New York Times, which first reported the effort, said former World Bank President James Wolfensohn was trying to raise the money for projects that could include a seaport, border crossings and other infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. State Department official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of Middle East diplomacy, described Wolfensohn's effort as "exploratory" and suggested it was not likely to come to fruition any time soon.

Asked if there was any chance of an announcement on an aid package while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia over the next week, the official told reporters, "No way."

The "quartet" of Middle East peace mediators -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- in April named Wolfensohn as a special envoy to help coordinate parts of the Israeli withdrawal.

His mission includes seeking reviving the Palestinian economy after the withdrawal as well as helping decide the fate of Israeli housing blocks and other assets that will be left behind when Israel evacuates the settlements.



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