Israel has evacuated 8500 Jewish settlers from the strip and says it expects to withdraw its troops from the area by mid-September to end a 38-year-old military presence.

Palestinian officials said on Monday that they expected the Egyptian official, Omar Suleiman, to urge resistance groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to preserve a ceasefire Abbas declared with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in February.

Resistance groups have said they would observe a "period of calm" until the end of the year and would then reassess the situation.

"Hamas will not make this truce eternal," said Ismail Haniyah, a senior leader of the group.

Hamas has warned the ceasefire
will not last forever

"When Hamas and resistance factions see (the ceasefire) is no longer in the Palestinian interest, we will announce its end and continue the path of resistance," Haniyah said at a weekly rally in Gaza held by families of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

On Sunday, a Palestinian bomber critically wounded two guards near an Israeli bus station, the first such attack since Israel evacuated its 21 settlements in Gaza and four of 120 in the northern West Bank last week.

Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Abbas's Fatah faction, said they carried out the bombing in response to Israel's killing of five Palestinians on Thursday.

The officials said Suleiman, who met Abbas separately before both men called in 13 factions to join Monday's session, also intended to discuss the possible handover to the Palestinian Authority of control of Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

EU initiative

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Israel and the Palestinians on Monday to resume negotiations under the framework of the troubled roadmap peace plan.

 

"We have to get into the roadmap process, the sooner the better," Solana told reporters after a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qureia in Gaza City.

  

The international community has been hoping that the evacuation of illegal settlements in the Gaza Strip can re-energise the peace process.

 

The European Union, along with the United States, United Nations and Russia, is one of the sponsors of the roadmap, which targets the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

 

Solana met with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas in July

The blueprint has made next to no progress since it was endorsed by the Israelis and Palestinians in 2003 amid continuing bloodshed.

 

"I'm very happy to see that disengagement has taken a very good direction thanks to everybody", Solana said ahead of talks with Abbas.

 

The EU official said he had discussed with Qureia some of the outstanding issues to be resolved by the Israelis and Palestinians after the pullout of soldiers in mid-September, including access in and out of the Rafah border crossing from Gaza into Egypt.

 

"We discussed questions which are still not finalised: the Rafah crossing, the relationships between Gaza and the West Bank," said the Spanish diplomat. "I'm sure that we'll have something in which everybody is accommodated".