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Abbas Warns Militants, Fires Security Chiefs Over Cease-Fire Violation

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is talking with leaders of militant groups in Gaza, demanding they observe the truce he has agreed upon with Israel. The talks come after Mr. Abbas fired three of his senior security chiefs for a cease-fire violation by Hamas militants a day earlier.

Over the past month Mahmoud Abbas has been meeting and talking with militant leaders to urge them to halt attacks against Israelis and to instead turn their energies to the budding Palestinian political process.

According to his senior aides, Mr. Abbas' message to the militants this time around will be sharper, namely that his government will not tolerate their violation of a cease-fire he announced earlier this week during a summit with the Israelis in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

On Thursday, Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets and mortars into Jewish settlements in Gaza. Hamas said the attack was not to challenge Mr. Abbas or his cease-fire but rather in retaliation against the death of a young Palestinian by Israeli gunfire a day earlier.

Mr. Abbas dismissed several top security officials including chief of public security General Abdel Razek Majaidie.

Israeli political analyst, Hillel Frisch of Bar-Ilan University told Israel radio, the dismissals indicate that Mr. Abbas is serious about holding his security forces responsible. He says the firings could also be part of wider security reforms and that Mr. Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is slowly getting rid of the so-called "old guard of the Fatah faction" that was so closely allied with Yasser Arafat.

"It's reducing the power of the people that were brought in from outside," Mr. Frisch said. "It's basically the beginning of a deal that Abu Mazen is making with Fatah inside by elevating the people from the middle, the local leadership."

Palestinian political analyst, Mahdi Abdel-Hadi says Mr. Abbas definitely has to deal with, what he calls these "two baskets" - the older generation of activists and militants and the younger generation. But, he sees this not limited to the security services or the Fatah faction, but to all political and militant groups.

"His agenda for the old guard, those who are over 60, he's willing to provide them with a medal, a certificate and with a pension salary," Mr. Abdel-Hadi said. "And for the young guard he has to work very hard for recruitment, for reconciliation, for co-optation and for education in order to make them part of the system. Otherwise the "two baskets" will continue to be spoilers for any agenda, for not only the truce, not only for democratization, not only for changing the status quo, but for developing the Palestinian society to a different chapter."

Palestinian security services are reported on high alert following Thursday's violence. Some officials say there is a limit to Mr. Abbas' patience with the militants, but Mahdi Abdelhadi says the Palestinian leader is still likely to coax the militants to join the political process rather than try to crush them, at least for the time being.