Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview aired in the U.S. yesterday the era of Palestinian suicide bombings may be over and the culture of violence is changing in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces and senior security officials report continued Palestinian violations of a cease-fire agreement signed in February, including an attempted suicide bombing last week.

Abbas, who was in Washington Thursday to meet U.S. president George W. Bush, granted an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” aired yesterday, in which he was asked whether the era of suicide bombing was over.

“I believe it is over,” replied Abbas. “We have started to deal with the culture of violence, we stopped the culture of violence and the Palestinian people have started looking at it as something that should be condemned and it should stop.”

But just last week, a fifteen year old would-be suicide bomber was apprehended near the West Bank city of Nablus after he was caught with explosives. An Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman said the boy intended to detonate a belt strapped to his chest at a nearby checkpoint by igniting a crude detonator with a cigarette lighter.

It was 14th time in the past two months a Palestinian teenager had attempted to detonate a bomb or smuggle arms and explosives through a military checkpoint.

A cease-fire agreement was announced in Egypt Feb. 8 by Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. But security officials warn Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been stockpiling weapons and preparing further attacks.

“The Palestinian terror organizations continue to take advantage of a lull in fighting,” Reuven Erlich, director of Israel’s Center for Special Studies, an analysis center associated with Israeli intelligence, told WND. “Hamas is working to extend the technical capabilities and manpower resources of its military wing by developing locally produced rockets and conducting advanced training in urban warfare.”

Palestinian violations of the de facto truce since February include more than 200 rocket and mortar attacks against Jewish communities in Gaza, a suicide bombing that killed five, and several bombing attempts, as well as the smuggling of heavy weaponry from Egypt into Gaza’s Rafah region, say security sources.

Since February, security sources report, there have been approximately 30 incidents of Palestinian smuggling from Egypt’s Sinai region, with weapons transported including approximately 1,000 rifles, dozens of RPG launchers, about 150 handguns, five anti-aircraft shoulder missiles and tens of thousands of bullets.

The weapons are being smuggled with the help of Hamas and Palestinian forces on the Israeli side, Erlich said.

A list of Palestinian attacks the past two weeks, obtained by WND, include 3 Qassam rockets and over 40 mortars fired at Jewish communities, 17 Molotov cocktails thrown at Israeli citizens, attempted suicide bombing, and an anti-tank missile fired at an IDF outpost in Gaza.

“Abbas’ claim that Palestinian suicide bombings are over is transparently false,” said a security official. “The attacks continue unabated.”

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