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Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad Completing Deal for Three-Month Cease-Fire

Representatives from Palestinian factions say they are close to reaching a cease-fire agreement for a period of three months and that a representative, probably from Hamas, will be in Cairo on Thursday to give Egyptian officials the final draft of the announcement. This was reported on Thursday in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam.

Intensive talks have been underway for a few weeks, mainly between Khalid Mash’al, head of the overseas political wing of Hamas, and Ramadan ‘Abdallah Shalah, secretary-general of Islamic Jihad. Another important constituent in these talks was Marwan Al-Barghouthi, head of the Tanzim (Fatah military wing) who is currently in an Israeli prison. He participated in the talks and oversaw them via mediators. The talks took place in the Palestinian-controlled territories and in Damascus. The factions talked of “suspending military operations for three months.”

The agreement they have drawn insists Israel stop raids and targeted killings, end the demolition of houses and land and cease the developing of settlements, in addition to releasing all the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention.

Qadura Faris, a member of the high committee of Fatah in the West Bank said Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not oppose the idea of a Hudna [cease-fire] and that the recent talks were not about the principle of a cease-fire but rather about its wording, adding they are very close to reaching the final version of the agreement.

A Palestinian official said the opposition movements, whether Hamas or Islamic Jihad, do not wish to thwart any chance of a political solution such as the Road Map. This does not mean they agree to such a plan, he added, only that they are willing to take steps to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people.

“The Palestinians are close to reaching an internal deal to give the new Palestinian government an opportunity to achieve peace,” said Head of Preventive Security in Gaza Rashid Abu Shbak to the Palestinian daily Al-Hayyat Al-Jadida on Thursday. When asked about the situation in the Palestinian Authority once certain areas are handed over to Palestinian control, he said “Israel is not capable of controlling the Palestinian resistance and it is not required of the Palestinian Authority to do so. Our first priority is to reach an agreement with the factions as a starting point. We don’t intend stripping the resistance of their weapons to remove the possibility of internal fighting. The thing we need most at present is national unity.”

He added that Sharon’s government is trying to dissolve any agreement because it has diplomatic obligations it does not want to implement. He claimed the Israeli proposals until now have not been convincing, and the Palestinians will turn down any proposal that does not include a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and Bethlehem. Such a withdrawal, he said, is not a moral step from the Israeli side, but rather a Palestinian right.