Hamas, Islamic Jihad to lie low

Without endorsing the ceasefire declared at the landmark Middle East summit, Palestinian resistance groups have said they will hold off on attacking Israel for now.

    Palestinian armed groups said they are not bound by the truce

    Two major groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, reacted on Wednesday to pledges by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to end violence at the Sharm al-Shaikh summit.


    Both resistance groups said they were not bound by the truce.


    But the two did not seem ready to alienate Abbas when they reiterated their readiness to observe a one-month "period of calm" as agreed with the Palestinian leader in late January.


    "Hamas endorsed (the need for) calm and will respect that to allow Abbas to ease into his job and exert pressure on the enemy," a spokesman said.


    Meeting sought


    The spokesman, Mushir al-Masri, also said that Hamas leaders would meet Abbas in the coming days in Gaza to find out more about the summit's results and possible Israeli guarantees to honour the truce.


    "We will decide on our position concerning the ceasefire after we meet with Abu Mazin," Masri said, using Abbas' nom-de-guerre.


    Hamas called Sharm al-Shaikh
    summit's outcome disappointing

    He branded the summit "disappointing" however. "The ceasefire agreement only reflects the Palestinian Authority's position and not that of every Palestinian group, among them Hamas,"

     Masri said. 


    "The resistance stems from the (Israeli) occupation and if the enemy perpetrates acts of violence, we will not stay silent."


    No sabotage


    Even as he echoed Hamas' stance that the ceasefire only engages the Palestinian Authority, an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza said that his group will not sabotage Abbas's effort to restore calm.


    "Islamic Jihad has endorsed a one-month period of quiet and we will respect it," the leader, Khadir Habib, said.


    "We will meet with Abu Mazin and listen to what he has to say before we make our position (on the ceasefire) known," he added.


    Islamic Jihad says Israel is not
    serious on several issues

    Another Islamic Jihad leader hinted that his movement's endorsement of the ceasefire did not only depend on Israel putting a halt to its military operations, as Sharon said he would at Tuesday's summit in Egypt's Sinai resort of Sharm al-Shaikh.


    "Israel is not serious on several issues such as prisoners and withdrawing" from the occupied Palestinian territories, Muhammad al-Hindi said.


    "The release of every Palestinian detainee, including those who have 'blood on their hands', is among Islamic Jihad's priorities because these prisoners are not criminals but freedom fighters for Palestine," he said.


    Prisoners' issue


    Sharon said at the summit that several hundred Palestinian prisoners would be freed.


    "Islamic Jihad has endorsed a one-month period of quiet and we will respect it"

    Khadir Habib,
    Islamic Jihad leader

    And Israeli officials said last week that 900 would soon be released, with a batch of 500 shortly after the summit. None of those set to be released have been convicted of murder.


    Criteria for the possible release of additional prisoners will be jointly examined, however, by a Palestinian-Israeli commission, officials on both sides said.


    On Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, speaking to Aljazeera, identified the key issues agreed upon with the Israeli side at Sharm al-Shaikh: Palestinian deportees; phased Israeli troop withdrawal from West Bank towns; and the formation of a joint committee to fix the terms and criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners.


    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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