By setting a date for Palestinian legislative elections and declaring that 97% of the land evacuated by Israel in Gaza will be used by the state for public projects, Abbas has partly set the stage for the post-occupation era, according to Aljazeera's correspondent in Palestine Jivara al-Bidairi.
 
Addressing a conference in Gaza City organised by young Palestinians, Abbas said the next phase will be marked by jihad (strife) in the sense that it will be an era for nation building, security and stability. He urged the nation's youth to participate in the process.

"We have issued a decree setting the date for Palestinian legislative elections on 25 January 2006. It is high time for me to see members of the youth parliament becoming MPs in the legislative council.

"I want to see members of the youth parliament as ministers and even one of them assuming the position of president of the Palestinian Authority," he said.

Meanwhile, a few metres way from the conference venue, the military wing of the Palestinain resistance group Hamas, Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, was asserting that any sea or air attack by Israeli occupation forces would invite strong retaliation, and that the resistance would now shift to the West Bank, al-Quds (Jerusalem) and inside the Green Line(1948 area - demarcated by the UN).

Hamas: Resistance will continue

In recent months, Hamas has made a strong showing in several rounds of municipal elections and was expected to do well in the parliament vote.

Hamas political leaders, though, welcomed the setting of the election date and added that the resistance to Israeli occupation and aggression will continue.

Hamas fighters took over
central Gaza as Abbas spoke 

A leading Hamas figure Hassan Yusuf told Aljazeera: "Our right as Palestinians is not limited to defending Gaza alone. There is still an ongoing occupation in the West Bank and al-Quds (Jerusalem) along with Israel’s constant aggression.

The reasons for continuing the resistance are still valid. We will maintain an armed resistance against the occupation. There is no contradiction in our position, as we are also committed to maintaining the period of calm as agreed upon.

"We are capable of managing this conflict in a sound manner, but we will never relinquish our rights.

"A Jewish settler has murdered four Palestinian civilians. This confirms the need for our people to maintain the resistance as ordained by divine law and international conventions. We will never veto any action which is in the interests of the Palestinian people." Yusuf said.


Election list


Regarding the elections he said
: "We have prepared our list of candidates, and we have even reserved a seat for the Christian minorities."

The elections were initially to have been held in July but were postponed because of Israel's Gaza pullout.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erikat, had said last week that elections would be held 21 January, based on a decision by the PLO Executive Committee.

However, officials went back to the calendar and changed the date so it would not interfere with a major Muslim holiday and the pilgrimage to Mecca during that period, Erikat said.

Abbas announced the date in a speech to high school
students in Gaza City on Saturday.

Settlements evacuated

"Our right as Palestinians is not limited to defending Gaza alone. There is still an ongoing occupation in the West Bank and al-Quds (Jerusalem) along with Israel's constant aggression.

Hassan Yusuf,
Leading Hamas figure

Israeli troops, meanwhile, took a break on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, after evacuating 87% of Gaza settlers in two and a half days. All but four of 21 settlements were vacant.

In the coming weeks, the settlement homes are to be demolished by Israeli troops.

The first demolition was on Friday at Kerem Atzmona, an illegal outpost within view of the Mediterranean.

The massive shovel of a yellow excavator flattened about 20 homes with a few blows to each. Cranes lifted bomb shelters - concrete boxes with thick metal doors - onto a flatbed truck to be hauled away and recycled.

Days of joy

The removal of settlers was to resume on Sunday, and security officials said they expected all settlers to be out of Gaza by Tuesday.

By midweek, Israel was to begin clearing settlers out of two small West Bank enclaves, Sanur and Homesh, to which hundreds of Jewish extremists have flocked in recent weeks to resist evacuation.

Residents of two other West Bank settlements marked for dismantled have left their homes on their own.

Abbas has been using the withdrawal to boost his political standing, telling his people they would have more jobs, housing and freedom of movement once the Israelis pullback.

Israel's pullout operation is close
to completion

On Friday, he told a cheering crowd at the devastated Gaza International Airport that Israel's departure was bringing "historic days of joy" to Palestinians.

He promised that the airport, which was practically destroyed by Israel in 2000, would again become a gateway for Palestinians - though Israel will still have the final say.

Abbas also pledged the Palestinian Authority would rebuild homes demolished by Israel during the past five years of military incursions. He promised to reserve 5% of government jobs for the disabled.