Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Hassan Abu Libdeh said Abbas took “punitive measures against officers who did not undertake their responsibilities, which led to the latest developments in Gaza.”
The newly elected president, who is under intense international pressure to reign in militants, reportedly fired the chief of public security Brig. Gen. Abdel Razek Majaidie, police chief Saeb al-Ajed, three other senior commanders and several lower-ranking officers.
The militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which did not result in any deaths. Hamas said the barrage was to avenge the death of a Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops on Wednesday. Troops claimed they fired on suspected intruders; Palestinians said the man was a civilian walking near his home.
“These are very dangerous developments, and they violate the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority,” Abu Libdeh said of the mortar attack. “No one can continue with these violations.” He also said Abbas will go to Gaza on Friday and reiterate that he will not tolerate violations of the cease-fire.
Israel called for an immediate end to the violence, but has not stopped measures agreed upon at Tuesday’s historic summit between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Egypt.
Sharon said Thursday that he was ready to release large numbers of Palestinian prisoners involved in deadly attacks — something he has refused to do thus far — if militants halt violence during the planned withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip this summer, according to the Haaretz daily newspaper. But Israel warned it will not allow militants to use the withdrawal to portray settlers retreating under fire.
Israel also opened a main Erez crossing point to the Gaza Strip Thursday, but only a few Palestinians were able to use it because employers did not submit the correct paperwork, Israeli officials said. Before the intifada began four years ago, more than 100,000.
Palestinians crossed into Israel every day to work, bringing much-needed income into poverty-stricken areas. Israel said it will pull back from five West Bank towns over the next three weeks.
Abbas dispatched an envoy to Lebanon this week to urge the guerrilla group Hezbollah to refrain from provoking conflict. Hezbollah spokesman Mohammed Afif denied that the group was trying to disrupt the calm.