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Abbas ousts 3 security officers after Gaza attack


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fired three key security officers Thursday after Palestinian militants fired mortars at Israeli communities in Gaza, a Palestinian official said.

Abbas sacked Omar Ashur, security commander for southern Gaza, and some of his officers as well as Maj. Gen. Abdel Razek Majaidem, head of the National Security Guard, and Saeb al-Ajis, a police commander, the official said.

The move comes after Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a cease-fire agreement at a summit Tuesday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt -- the first upper-level meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in more than four years.

Abbas took action Thursday after a volley of mortar fire by Palestinian militants in Gaza at Israeli communities. Earlier, Palestinian gunmen stormed a Gaza jail, shooting and killing three inmates over a family dispute.

In the cease-fire deal, Sharon said Israel will end its military operations in all locations in return for Palestinians stopping violence against Israelis.

Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin said this week that Israel will refrain from military action "to the extent that the Palestinians will fulfill their pledges and their commitments" of ending "violence, terrorism and incitement" against Israel.

"It will be their responsibility to stop terrorists," Gissin said. "To the extent that will be fulfilled, we can move forward."

In addition to the cease-fire, Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erakat said that Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed to revive committees set up to deal with prisoners, the redeployment of troops, Palestinian fugitives and deportees.

The Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas issued a statement saying it is not a party to the cease-fire. The agreement is the position of the Palestinian Authority only, the statement said. Israel and the U.S. State Department consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

After talks with Sharon and Abbas over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the two leaders have agreed to meet separately with President Bush in Washington in the spring.

"This is the most promising moment for progress between Palestinians and Israelis in recent years," Rice said.

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