Gaza factions agree to cease-fire
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST
Apr. 29, 2008

Twelve Palestinian factions have accepted Cairo's proposal for a temporary truce with Israel, beginning in Gaza, Egypt announced on Wednesday, adding that it would press Israel to accept the deal.

"The ball is now in the Israeli court," Egyptian and Palestinian officials told The Jerusalem Post. "Israel won't be able to ignore this important development."

The announcement came after two days of intensive talks in Cairo between representatives of the Palestinian groups and Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Shortly before the announcement, Egyptian authorities released Ramzi Hamid, 35, a senior commander of Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, who was held in Egyptian prison for four years.

Hamas officials welcomed the move and expressed hope that the Egyptians would release other imprisoned Hamas gunmen. They said Hamid's came as a reward for Hamas's acceptance of the Egyptian truce proposal.

"This initiative is part of a larger plan designed to create a suitable atmosphere to lift the siege [on the Gaza Strip] and end the state of division among the Palestinians," a senior Egyptian security official said.

Fatah and Hamas had already accepted the truce proposal, the Egyptian official said.

The tahadiyeh (period of calm) would be comprehensive, mutual and simultaneous and would first be implemented in the Gaza Strip, he said.

"The tahadiyeh will be implemented in phases," he said. "It will begin in the Gaza Strip and, at a later stage, will be applied to the West Bank."

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh welcomed the deal between the Egyptians and the 12 Palestinian factions, saying the ball was now in the Israeli court. He also called on Israel to halt its policy of "collective punishment" and to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

"We wish to express our deep gratitude for President Hosni Mubarak and General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman for their efforts to halt the aggression against our people," Haniyeh said. "We emphasize the need to comply with the Palestinian stance and fulfill our demands of lifting the siege and reopening the border crossings."

Ziad Nakhalah, head of the Islamic Jihad delegation at the Cairo discussions, said his group would abide by the agreement despite its reservations about its contents. "Islamic Jihad is not part of the agreement," he said. "But we won't violate or hinder it."

He said his organization's main reservation focused on the fact that the agreement would be implemented in phases. "Our organization is not prepared to pay a political price for the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank," he said. "We can't give legitimacy to Israel's crimes against our people in the West Bank."

Nakhalah hinted that Islamic Jihad maintained the right to retaliate against Israel in response to any measures taken in the West Bank. "The ball has always been in the Israeli court," he said.

Muhammad al-Baba, a senior official of the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various armed groups in the Gaza Strip, said his faction also had reservations about the proposed agreement because it did not apply to the West Bank together with the Gaza Strip.

"The Egyptians promised to put pressure on Israel to refrain from provoking us by launching attacks in the West Bank," Baba said. "Otherwise, we have the right to respond to Israel's aggressive actions."

He added that the decision to accept the Egyptian plan was made to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and to pave the way for the reopening of the border crossings.


Original article: Jerusalem Post
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