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Abbas Vows Palestinian Elections Will Take Place on Schedule


Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says parliamentary elections will take place on schedule in January. Mr. Abbas also criticized militant groups who have refused to disarm. Later in the day, an Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for bombing in Israeli market town of Hadera in which at least five people died and 30 were reportedly injured.

In an impassioned speech to the Palestinian parliament, Mahmoud Abbas said that only an "act of God" can delay landmark parliamentary elections scheduled for January 25. The announcement quashed speculation that he would postpone the vote because of growing chaos in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a strong challenge from the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Mr. Abbas spoke after a skirmish on the Gaza border. An Israeli aircraft fired a missile into a field in northern Gaza in response to a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli border town.

The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for firing the rockets, saying it was retaliation for Israel's killing of one of the group's leaders in a West Bank raid earlier this week.

Mr. Abbas lashed out at the militants, saying they have no right to violate the eight-month-old cease-fire whenever they see fit.

"I do not want to talk about Israel," Mr. Abbas said. "I want to talk about Palestinian elements who have brought armed chaos to the streets.

Israel said the speech is a step in the right direction. But Israeli spokesman Mark Regev told VOA that Israel wants deeds, not words.

"We expect the Palestinians to follow through on their commitments and that is to disarm the different terrorist organizations," he said.

But the leader of Hamas said the group will not disarm. Mahmoud al-Zahar told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that Hamas has gained nothing from the cease-fire. He said the group might walk away from the truce at the end of the year.

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