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Gunmen give Abbas warm welcome in Gaza

The following is excerpted from an article appearing in
by Arnon Regular and Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent, and AP
January 5, 2005

Dozens of gunmen gave a warm welcome to interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, hoisting him on their shoulders and pledging loyalty to his campaign for the Palestinian presidency.

Abbas has been an outspoken critic of violence against Israel, saying the past four years of violence have done little for the Palestinian cause. But in recent days, he has repeatedly reached out to militant groups, including a public encounter Thursday with prominent West Bank gunman Zakariya Zubeidi, the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who is wanted by Israel.

Zubeidi and Abbas met face to face and the militant even hoisted the Palestinian leader on his shoulders. His aides have said he needs the support of the Palestinian street for a large margin of victory that would enable him to negotiate with Israel in the future.

Zubeidi told Channel 10 TV news that, "We are not talking about the end of the intifada, not about a cease-fire and not about an end to terror attacks."

Regarding the wanted militants, Abbas said that, "They are neither criminals nor murderers. Rather they are fighting for the honorable lives of their Palestinians brothers."

Discussions of Temple Mount visit ongoing

Israeli and Palestinian officials have been meeting over the past few days to discuss the possibility of allowing Abbas to make an election campaign visit to East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount next week. The visit would come several days before the January 9 elections in the Palestinian Authority.

Senior Fatah sources in the Jerusalem area told Haaretz about the talks and confirmed that the two sides discussed a possible Abbas visit to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif.

Israel Police officials met Thursday in a Jerusalem hotel with Palestinian figures in the lead-up to the elections.

Police sources refused Thursday to reveal what was discussed in the meeting but said the two sides were seeking to organize the permissibility of election campaigning in East Jerusalem and to determine security arrangements.

The decision to allow Abbas into Jerusalem is in the hands of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. If the election jaunt is authorized at the political level, this would be the first visit in Jerusalem of a Palestinian personality of Abbas' level.

Israel had in the past prevented Yasser Arafat from visiting Jerusalem. In one instance at the beginning of the intifada, however, Israel allowed his convoy to pass adjacent to the Old City while he was making his way to Jericho.

Police said Thursday that, "Jerusalem police will carry out every directive issued by the political level."



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