Islamic Jihad vows new attacks

A Palestinian resistance group participating in Egyptian-mediated ceasefire talks has vowed fresh attacks on Israel and said it would not abide by any agreement to stop.

    Islamic Jihad has refused to lay down its arms

    Islamic Jihad's Friday statement appeared to skewer expectations that Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya could come away from talks in Cairo among 13 Palestinian resistance groups with an agreement to cease attacks on Israelis.

    Such an agreement is seen as a critical step towards salvaging a US-backed "road map", which envisions an end to violence and a Palestinian state by 2005.

    "We remain committed to the choice of resistance as a strategic (one) to ... dismiss the occupation from our land," said the statement issued by Islamic Jihad's armed wing in Gaza.

    "We will not abide by any agreement or any dialogue that will abandon these principles ... and our painful reaction in the heart of (Israel) will not be delayed," the statement added.

    Hamas demands

    Earlier Hamas, the group spearheading attacks against Israel, said it and the other groups meeting in Cairo, including Islamic Jihad, would only consider a ceasefire if Israel halted attacks first.

    Islamic Jihad said fresh attacks would serve as revenge for Israeli operations and the expulsion of eight Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

    Islamic Jihad's political leader in the Gaza Strip Khalid al-Batsh told Reuters news agency his group would be ready to halt attacks on Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip if Israel stops military incursions into Palestinian territory.

    Israel has said it does not negotiate with "militants" but would halt military operations if Palestinians cease attacks.

    "We remain committed to the choice of resistance as a strategic (one) to ... dismiss the occupation from our land"

    Islamic Jihad statement 

    Senior Hamas official Muhammad Nazzal said he and representatives of Damascus-based Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and the Sa'eqa meeting in Cairo, share similar views and may declare their intentions on Sunday at the close of talks.

    "We will welcome him (Quraya) and inform him of our position. We will tell him we don't believe that at this stage a total cessation of military attacks is a suitable step. Israel has to accept a ceasefire first," Nazzal said.

    "But we have said we were ready for a mutual, conditional, halt to attacks against civilians," he said. Such a ceasefire does not include settlers, which the Palestinian armed groups do not regard as civilians.

    Quraya to meet Sharon

    Quraya will arrive in Cairo on Saturday. He and Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman will attend the final session of talks for a ceasefire crucial for the resumption of stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace moves. Quraya then plans to meet his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon.

    Israel said halting attacks against Israeli civilians was rejected as insufficient.

    "This is not enough ... You don't stop terrorism at 50% ... I can tell that once they stop terrorism completely, once they disarm the terrorists and dismantle the terror organisations, there will be absolutely no need for any military action by Israel," Avi Pazner, Israel's government spokesman said.

    Leading Hamas official Musa Abu Marzuk told Palestinian faction leaders on Friday that his group was leaving the door ajar for an agreement over a conditional ceasefire.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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