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Abbas blames Hamas for bringing Israel's wrath

CAIRO (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed the rival Islamist group Hamas on Sunday for triggering Israel’s deadly raids on Gaza by not extending a six-month truce with the Jewish state.

Abbas, whose Fatah group has been at loggerheads with Hamas, said maintaining the truce could have helped the Palestinians avoid the Israeli raids, which killed more than 270 people in Gaza in the past two days.

“We talked to them (Hamas) and we told them ‘please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop’ so that we could have avoided what happened,” he said in Cairo.

Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads since the Islamist group won parliamentary elections in 2006 and then routed Fatah’s forces out of Gaza in June 2007. Abbas also blames the group for disrupting national unity talks that could pave the way for general and presidential elections.

Israel said the raids which killed more than 270 people in the last two days were in response to Hamas’s continued cross-border rocket attacks. Both sides trade the blame for violating, and then not extending the Egyptian-brokered truce, which expired December 19.

Abbas, speaking after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said the priority now was to end the bloodshed and restore the truce between Gaza and Israel.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt, which has mediated between Hamas and Israel and between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, said Cairo summoned the Israeli ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Sunday for the second day in a row to complain about Israeli military operations.

“We object to this and we demand a stop and that the Israeli army does not carry out a new invasion,” he said.

The Egyptian minister said a cease-fire would be the aim of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday.

Several Arab leaders have also proposed an Arab summit to respond to the attacks on Gaza but Aboul Gheit suggested that a summit could be some way off.

“Priority is the Arab measures at the level of foreign ministers ... then we can look at a later phase, but we don’t imagine moving without proper preparation for such a summit. First we have to look at the cease-fire measures,” he said.

Reporting by Jonathan Wright, Writing by Alaa Shahine