The new Palestinian president believes he is close to striking a ceasefire deal with militants. Mahmoud Abbas says he has been making good progress in convincing armed groups to follow what he calls an agenda of “national dialogue”. Yasser Arafat’s replacement believes he can persuade radical Palestinians to stop targeting Israelis for long enough to kick-start peace talks.
A Hamas spokesman said any move to lay down their weapons had to come with a clear commitment from the Israelis to stop all military operations too. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon responded to the development by holding his regular cabinet meeting in Sderot, a town often hit by Palestinian rockets.
Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said: “The real infrastructure of relationships between the Palestinians and us is political rather than technological. It’s not relations between guns, it’s a relation between people.” There remains anger among many Israeli settlers and those living near the Gaza border. Demonstrators in Sderot said they wanted Sharon to take tough action on militants firing missiles at their homes.