GAZA CITY -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denounced a deadly Israeli arrest raid that killed five Palestinians yesterday, calling it an intentional provocation aimed at undermining a six-month cease-fire, but he urged militant groups to hold their fire.
Militants vowed to renew attacks on Israel, a move that would undercut the good will that resulted from an Israeli pullout from 25 Jewish settlements in Gaza and part of the West Bank.
Following Tuesday's completion of the most important stage of the pullout -- evacuating settlers -- violence flared in three places.
A rocket fired from Lebanon exploded in an Israeli village just across the border yesterday, causing some damage but no casualties. Late Wednesday, Israeli forces raided the Tulkarem refugee camp in the West Bank, killing five Palestinians, at least three of them armed. A few hours before that, a Palestinian stabbed two young Jewish men in the Old City of Jerusalem, killing one and seriously wounding the other.
Abbas blamed Israel for inciting the sudden escalation with its deadly raid in Tulkarem. ''This murder intentionally aims at renewing the vicious cycle of violence," he said.
Raanan Gissin, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that the Palestinians have failed to control militants. ''We have transferred authority over this city of Tulkarem and the surrounding villages to the Palestinian Authority, and over a period of about three months, no action has been taken," Gissin said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the department was still trying to get a clear picture of what happened in Tulkarem but stressed, ''Israel has a right to defend itself."
Since Abbas and Sharon declared a cease-fire in February, the number of violent incidents plunged. However, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have carried out attacks, claiming they were responding to Israeli violations.
Islamic Jihad sent a suicide bomber into Tel Aviv in February and another into Netanya in July. Five Israelis were killed in each attack.
The cell's leadership was traced to the Tulkarem area, and Israel has been hunting its members, maintaining that even under the truce, it has the right to take defensive measures.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the arrest raid targeted those fugitives. ''This was an operation against a 'ticking bomb,' " he told Israel television. ''They were planning a suicide bombing attack in Israel."
Palestinians said the Israelis opened fire first, and Mofaz did not deny that. ''Weapons were drawn on the soldiers and gunfire resulted," he said.
About 4,000 people attended a funeral for the five. Gunmen fired in the air, and many residents accused Israel of destroying the calm that prevailed during the Gaza pullout.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades vowed revenge.
Hours later, militants fired two homemade rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, the army said, the first such attack since Israel began its pullout from Gaza on Aug. 15. There were no injuries or damage.
After sunset, hundreds of Islamic Jihad militants marched in Gaza City and Khan Younis, pledging revenge.
At midday yesterday, a rocket fired from Lebanon exploded in Margaliot, an Israeli farming village on the border. The rocket damaged a chicken coop, but no one was hurt. Army Radio reported it was the first time such a rocket has been fired at an Israeli community since Israel ended its 18-year occupation of south Lebanon in 2000.