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The Palestinian Authority appealed to the US on Monday to intervene to stop Israel from attacking the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks.
The appeal came on the eve of a meeting of the Israeli cabinet, which is expected to discuss the latest developments surrounding the Egyptian initiative to achieve a truce between Israel and Hamas.
"We have approached the US administration with an official request to prevent an Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip," a senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post.
"We fear that [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert will order an attack on the Gaza Strip to divert attention from the latest corruption scandal."
In Gaza City, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said "These threats, which are not new, don't scare the Palestinians. These threats reflect the security and political crisis facing the leaders of Israel."
PA President Mahmoud Abbas warned that an Israeli military operation would "sabotage" efforts to reach a peace agreement with Israel and undermine his authority in the West Bank.
During meetings in Cairo and Jeddah over the past 48 hours, Abbas urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to intervene with Israel and the US to prevent an IDF military operation, a source close to Abbas said.
Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat announced that US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was planning to hold a three-way meeting with the head of the PA negotiating team, Ahmed Qurei, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem next Monday.
Rice is scheduled to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday.
Erekat said the three would review the status of the peace talks and ways of achieving a breakthrough.
Abbas, who is currently on a tour of a number of Arab countries, expressed fear that an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip at this stage would "sabotage" the peace process.
Abbas also urged the Egyptians and Saudis to increase their efforts to achieve a cease-fire with Israel and solve the Fatah-Hamas crisis.
"President Abbas warned that any Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip would result in a bloodbath and undermine his authority," the officials told the Post.
"He also threatened to resign if Israel carried out its threats to invade the Gaza Strip."
Abbas told reporters in Cairo following his meeting with Mubarak that he was strongly opposed to a military solution in the Gaza Strip.
"Of course we won't accept such a thing," he said.
"We continue to believe that the only way to deal with the situation in the Gaza Strip is through dialogue [with Hamas]."
Abbas, who last week launched an initiative to hold unconditional talks with Hamas over ways of ending the Fatah-Hamas dispute, said he did not rule out the possibility that he would visit the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, which had welcomed Abbas's initiative, invited Abbas to visit the Gaza Strip for reconciliation talks with the movement's leaders.
"No one can prevent me from traveling to the Gaza Strip," Abbas said.
"The Gaza Strip is part of our land and we insist that it be part of the Palestinian state. I hope that my initiative would mark the beginning of a new era of reconciliation and accord."
Abbas said he was not opposed to the idea of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal moving his headquarters from Damascus to the Gaza Strip.
He also confirmed that Fatah and Hamas had agreed to stop attacks on each other through the media.
Abbas's visit to Cairo came amid reports that the Egyptians were planning to invite Fatah and Hamas representatives for "national unity talks."
According to the PA officials, the Saudis suggested that the Hamas-Fatah talks be held under the auspices of the Arab League in one of the Arab capitals.
They added that Abbas had said he was eager for an agreement similar to the one reached between the rival Lebanese factions in Qatar late last month.