Exiled Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal on Saturday described rockets attacks on Israel this week as "self defense" and claimed they were justified, while the camp of the moderate Palestinian president urged the preservation of the five months' truce.
The comments came as Hamas' Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were meeting for a second day in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Their talks, which started Friday, were the first since their blocs in March formed a coalition government.
The meetings followed an escalation in Palestinian-Israeli tensions, with a barrage of rockets fired by Hamas earlier in the week that threatened the ceasefire. Egyptian officials were concerned the attacks could sabotage their mediation efforts.
"It's the Palestinians' right to defend themselves," Mashaal said, adding the attacks came in revenge for the killings of nine Hamas Palestinians by Israel. "These are violations that needed a retaliation."
But Abbas' aide, Nabil Abu Rudeina, who was also in Cairo, said "everybody should abide by" the truce because it is "for the sake of the Palestinian people."
'Olmert behind delay in Shalit's release'
Mashaal also blamed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for allegedly hindering Egyptian mediations to secure the release of the abducted Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
Mashaal said in Cairo that the Israeli premier was "personally behind the delay in the release of the Israeli soldier."
"There were big hopes, but Olmert is responsible for everything," he said without elaborating. The two Palestinian leaders were also meeting Egyptian officials - Mashaal met with Arab League Chief Amr Moussa, while Abbas held talks with President Hosni Mubarak.
Abu Rudeina told The Associated Press that Abbas urged Hamas to "speed up the prisoners' swap."
Abbas has just ended a seven-nation tour to European Union countries as part of his latest attempt to persuade Europe to end the aid cutoff and fully resume dealings with Palestinian government.