Jerusalem Yasser Arafat asked militant groups Wednesday to halt attacks on Israelis, the Palestinian leader's first public attempt to restore calm after the collapse of the armed groups' unilateral truce.
But a Hamas leader rejected the call, while Israel, which has tried to sideline Arafat from the peace process, dismissed it as empty rhetoric and said the army would keep rounding up terror suspects and hunting down their leaders.
Arafat stepped forward with the appeal at a time when he's caught in a power struggle with his prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and when the United States is pressing the Palestinians to act against militants, a key requirement under the creaking U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.
Arafat rejected U.S. demands he give Abbas control of key security forces that would lead any sustained crackdown and instead appointed his own security adviser: the tough former West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub.
Rajoub openly supports the peace plan and has arrested militants in the past. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he was evasive over whether he would launch a crackdown now, and suggested Israel should stop military action first.