Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas urged the Palestinians on Tuesday to ensure calm for Israel’s evacuation of its Gaza settlements, saying an orderly transfer of control would boost the Palestinian quest for statehood.
Addressing a special session of the Palestinian parliament in Gaza City, Abbas also warned against seizing property left by the Israelis and called on Palestinians to avoid excessive celebration. Israel’s pullout is set to begin on Aug. 17.
“It is a requirement to ensure that the withdrawal will take place in a civilized manner so that we can show the world we deserve our freedom and independence,” he told lawmakers in a speech broadcast live on Palestinian media.
Abbas also reiterated his appeal to Palestinian militants to keep their commitment to a cease-fire with Israel that has been marred by sporadic violence.
“We don’t want any provocation,” he said. “Let them go, let us allow them to leave.”
Israel has vowed to strike back hard and even temporarily take over parts of Palestinian-ruled Gaza if militants launch attacks during the evacuation of 8,500 Jewish settlers living in the occupied strip.
Abbas also announced that Palestinian legislative elections will be held in January. He did not give an exact date for the elections, which were originally scheduled to take place on July 17.
Abbas delayed the vote, saying there was not sufficient time for preparations. But Hamas, the biggest rival to Abbas’ Fatah faction, appeared to have been set for big gains, and many analysts believe the delay was meant to give Fatah more time to shore up its standing with the Palestinian public.