Leaders to meet as Gaza toll rises

Israeli air raids kill two Palestinians as Olmert and Abbas agree to meet next week.

    Under a US-brokered deal, Olmert, right, and Abbas
    are supposed to meet at regular intervals [AFP]

    A statement from Olmert's office confirmed a meeting with Abbas was planned for next week, with the date and location yet to be determined.

    The Quartet of Middle East negotiators also gathered on Wednesday discuss how to overcome the renewed violence between Israel and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip.


    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said he hoped the meeting would help "facilitate the peace process".


    Abbas call

    "Our meetings with the Israelis must continue, and in this regard I will have a new meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert on June 7," Abbas said on Tuesday.

    But the Palestinian president said that before progress could be made rocket attacks into Israel from the Gaza Strip needed to be stopped.

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    "The international community is questioning us and when we say we are under attack, the response is that we are also launching rockets," he told Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh.

    "The truce with Israel should begin with us putting an end to firing rockets. When we stop firing rockets we'll put the ball in the court of the Israelis."
    Nearly 250 rockets have been launched at Israel since May 15, which have killed two civilians and wounded 20 others, the Israeli army said.

    Abbas said: "Any assault or air raid against us [after ceasing rocket-fire] becomes unjustified for them and in the eyes of the international community."
    "This should be the starting point - rockets must stop."
    He also said that Israel should halt its assault on the Gaza Strip.
    "They should be put to the test for a month, and then we can move to the West Bank where incursions and attacks should come to an end."

    Defiant Hamas

    News of the planned meeting between Abbas and Olmert comes amid weeks of escalating violence in the Gaza Strip.

    Abbas says rocket attacks into Sderot
    and other Israeli towns must stop [AFP]

    Abbas and Olmert agreed in March to meet every two weeks, but those intentions have been undermined by international events both in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

    The two last met on April 15.
    However despite Abbas's creasefire calls, Khaled Meshaal, a senior Hamas leader, told London's Guardian newspaper on Wednesday that armed resistance would eventually drive Israel out of the occupied territories.

    "What caused Sharon to leave Gaza, Barak to leave Lebanon in 2000?" he asked.

    "And look what's going on in Iraq where the greatest power in the world is facing confusion because of Iraqi resistance."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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