"If this security chaos does not end, we will suspend our duties," he told reporters. "We are telling the heads of security services that there should be severe deterrence for all those who are tampering with security."

Quraya's remarks followed a surge of violence in the Palestinian political seat of Ram Allah, previously less affected by strife that has plagued other towns in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

In the most recent of three shooting incidents in Ram Allah in the past week, several members of the Palestinian security services took part in a gunfight between rival families in which two people were wounded.

They ultimately fired on police who intervened to stop the fight.

Crime

The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, is under heavy internal pressure to stop violence and crime, including shooting in the streets and a rising murder rate.

"We are telling the heads of security services that there should be severe deterrence for all those who are tampering with security"

Ahmed Quraya,
Palestinian prime minister

Abbas also faces demands from Washington and Israel to reform security services and enforce a ceasefire he agreed with Israel in February.

Palestinian resistance groups have signalled that the truce is in jeopardy amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Abbas has made security reforms a top priority. He shuffled his security chiefs earlier this year and has repeatedly ordered them to halt chaos.

Palestinian officials say Israeli incursions and raids into Palestinian areas complicate their task to impose the rule of law.

Executions

But Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, a political ally of Abbas, said that stopping the work of the cabinet over the internal strife is not appropriate.

"The continuation of the work of the cabinet is not a tactical matter," he said, but added that the current security situation is "absolutely unacceptable".

Violence is plaguing towns in the
occupied territories

"Certain strong measures have to be taken to regain a state of normalcy and to regain a sense of security for the Palestinians," he said.

The Palestinian Authority, trying to send a message that it will be tough on crime, executed four convicted killers on Sunday in defiance of international calls to end capital punishment.

They were the first executions by the Palestinian Authority since 2001.

But the violence continued on Tuesday when four Palestinians were killed in Gaza in a family feud.

Pullout suspension?

Meanwhile, Israel's military chief said there could be a temporary delay in withdrawing from the Gaza Strip this summer if Palestinian armed groups attack.

Halutz vowed his forces would
respond to Palestinian attacks

He said the pullout would resume, however, after waging a counterattack.

Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz's comments came ahead of talks intended to lay the groundwork for coordinating the pullout between Israel and the Palestinians. Commanders met on Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv, the first such meeting of field-level officers.

 

After the two-hour session, the Israeli military released a statement saying: "The meeting was held in a positive atmosphere. Both sides agreed to continue the meetings to coordinate the disengagement," the Israeli term for the pullout.

 

No Palestinian comment was immediately available.

 

Halutz said the job of unarmed troops forcibly evacuating settlers while trying to defend against Palestinian fire would be complex and dangerous.

 

In that situation, the army would have to suspend the pullout and fight the militants before it could proceed with the withdrawal, he said.

 

"I don't see how technically we can do both things at once," Halutz said. "There won't be disengagement under fire."