JERUSALEM—Seeking calm and unity, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia asked militant factions to refrain from attacks inside Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported Sunday, as the Palestinians awaited word on their critically ill leader, Yasser Arafat.
At a rare meeting with Qureia in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the Islamic militant group Hamas joined a call for unity and demanded a role in Palestinian decision-making in the post-Arafat era.
But it appeared to reject any suggestion of a cease-fire. “The resistance continues and will stop only if the occupation ends,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
“This time is very sensitive. It’s a historic time. There is no space for any unilateral decisions,” he said, alluding to Fatah, Arafat’s core organization. “Everyone now is calling for the formation of a united Palestinian leadership. This is a demand of our people,” he said.
The Haaretz newspaper reported that Qureia asked Hamas to halt operations inside Israel to forestall Israeli retaliations and allow a new Palestinian leadership to establish itself.
Qureia and Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s deputy on the powerful executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, are widely expected to wield power in the West Bank and Gaza after Arafat’s death, at least for a transition period.
Both Qureia and Abbas have denounced attacks against Israeli civilians as damaging to the Palestinian cause. But the latest plea to Hamas comes amid fears of a chaotic breakdown of order when Arafat dies, with Hamas trying to preclude any peace overtures between Israel and Arafat’s successors.
Hamas has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks in Israel during the 4-yearlong violence. It’s most recent assault was a double suicide bombing on buses in the southern city of Beersheva on August 13, killing 16 people. An attack in Tel Aviv last week that killed three Israelis was claimed by another group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.