Israel's outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called in an interview on Thursday for residents of Gaza to stop the Hamas rulers of the enclave from firing rockets and mortars into Israel.
"I say to you in a last-minute call, stop it," Olmert said in an interview with television station Al-Arabiya.
"Don't let Hamas, which is acting against the values of Islam, put you in danger," he said. "Stop them. Stop your enemies and ours. Tell them to stop firing on innocent civilians."
"I know how much you want to get up in the morning to quiet, to take your children to kindergarten or school, the way we do, they way they want to in Sderot and Netivot," he said, referring to Israeli communities near Gaza that have come under fire.
"We want to live as good neighbors with Gaza," he said. "We don't want to harm you, and we will not allow a humanitarian crisis where you will suffer from a lack of food and medicine. We don't want to fight with the Palestinian people, but we will not allow Hamas to strike our children."
Violence has escalated in and around the Gaza Strip since the expiry of an Egyptian-brokered six-month truce last week, with Israel and Hamas trading military strikes and warnings of more to come.
Abbas urges talks
President Mahmud Abbas on Thursday called on Hamas to resume reconciliation talks with his secular Fatah party which broke down in November.
"We want them to return to reason," Abbas said while on a visit to the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
"We do not want to get rid of them, they are a part of the Palestinian people, whatever their ideas and vision may be, and however they may differ from ours."
He also rejected any clashes with the Islamist group, saying that "democracy" must be the sole resolution of internal Palestinian discord.
Abbas recently said that if Hamas did not return to reconciliation talks by the end of the year, he would call snap parliamentary and presidential elections.
Hamas has warned that it would no longer recognize Abbas if he remained in power after his term expired on January 8 and would not allow the holding of new parliamentary polls before they are due in January 2010.
Hamas boycotted reconciliation talks that were due to take place in Cairo in November to protest the "political detentions" of its members by pro-Abbas forces in the West Bank.
Simmering tensions between Western-shunned, Islamist Hamas and Western-backed secular Fatah burst into all-out street warfare in June 2007, when the Islamists forced pro-Abbas forces out of the Gaza Strip.