Palestinian-Israeli truce within 24 hours

Three Palestinian resistance groups are expected to announce a halt to military operations against Israel within 24 hours, if Israel accepts to adhere to conditions they have set forth, according to a top Islamic Jihad official.

    Resistance groups will abide by
    the truce only if Israel stops its

    Islamic Jihad official, Mohammed al-Hindi, said on Saturday a final agreement would be announced in the next 24 hours if Israel agreed to "stop murders, incursions and demolishing houses, as well as freeing prisoners".

    Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades would not be bound to respect the truce if Israel were to violate these conditions, al-Hindi said.

    The Palestinian daily al-Ayyam reported on Saturday that the three groups would officially announce a three-month truce on Sunday at 11:00 am (0800 GMT).


    The announcement would take place simultaneously in Gaza City, the West Bank city of Ramallah and in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, according to the daily. 

    The truce comes as US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is due to hold talks with Palestinian and Israeli officials over the weekend.

    Rice's visit to the region is part of US efforts to push forward with the US-sponsored "road map" plan that is aimed at ending the 33-month intifadah. 

    On Friday, Hamas said it had decided to suspend its resistance operations against Israel.

    The group's spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said Hamas "has studied all the developments and has reached a decision to call a truce, or a suspension of fighting activities".

    Prominent Hamas official, Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi told Aljazeera on Saturday that the truce was not linked to Rice's visit to the region.


    "We are not concerned with the US stance or the Zionist stance," al-Rantissi said.


    "This is an initiative by the Palestinian factions to protect the Palestinian cause," he said.

    Israeli withdrawal

    Israelis to withdraw from
    northern Gaza after having
    caused suffering to residents

    Earlier in the day, Israeli public and army radio announced that Israel would withdraw its occupation forces from parts of the Gaza Strip on Monday.

    The withdrawal comes as part of a security agreement reached with the Palestinian Authority and declared on Friday.

    The reports of the withdrawal were broadcast on Saturday.

    They cited Israeli "senior" officials, who said occupation forces would also evacuate the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

    Israeli and Palestinian officers are due to meet on Sunday to discuss the details of the withdrawal from parts of the northern Gaza Strip, according to the reports.

    The areas to be evacuated were re-occupied recently after Israel accused Palestinian resistance groups of using them to launch rockets on nearby Israeli targets, such as the town of Sderot.

    "If the Palestinians do not honour their commitments and stop anti-Israeli attacks being organised from the sectors evacuated, the Israeli army will feel free to act against terrorist organisations," Public Radio said. 

    Army Radio referred to what it said was the "concern of military leaders, who fear that uncontrolled terrorist bands will not obey the leadership of the different Palestinian organisations and will continue to carry out attacks".

    Under the deal, Israel has to withdraw from certain areas that were under Palestinian control before the Intifadah began in September 2000.

    Israel re-occupied these areas, following the outbreak of the Intifadah. 

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan welcomed the security agreement, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Friday.

    "He looks forward to continued implementation of the 'road map' ", the spokesman said, referring to the US-sponsored plan to end the 33-month intifadah.

    Meanwhile, three Palestinian policemen were injured in the West Bank early on Saturday while trying to dismantle an explosive device, Palestinian medical and security sources said.

    Residents in Nablus found the device in a rubbish bin and alerted the police.

    But as policemen were working on the device, it exploded.

    Two bystanders were also moderately injured.  


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