Palestinians close to ceasefire deal

Palestinian resistance groups are close to agreeing on a formal halt to attacks on Israel but are still discussing how long such a truce should last.

    Mahmud Abbas (L) is talking to resistance groups in Cairo

    Talks under way in Cairo between Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and a dozen resistance groups have been grappling with ways to cement the ceasefire with Israel.

    "A committee was formed to draft the final statement which will include two issues – the first one is the 'calm' which didn’t mention a timeframe and the second issue is organising Palestinian internal affairs," Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah official said late on Wednesday night.

    Israel's pullback from the West Bank town of Jericho earlier in the day gave Abbas an argument in favour of non-violence with the two main resistance groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

    Extending calm

    A senior official said both Hamas and Islamic Jihad had already agreed on extending the period of calm but had not agreed on a timeframe during the talks that began on Tuesday.

    A dozen resistance groups
    are participating in the talks

    He said Umar Sulayman, Egypt's intelligence chief and key mediator during talks, was meeting senior Hamas and Jihad officials "to crystallise their positions and commitment to the calm ahead of drafting the final settlement".

    Resistance leaders, who are committed to armed struggle, say they refuse to give the Israelis a gift.

    A senior Hamas official said: "Hamas will not accept a truce but will say yes to renewing an ongoing calm. We cannot accept a calm till the end of this year. We can understand a short-term calm for a few months."

    Hamas view

    At a briefing for Egyptian editors, Hamas leader Khalid Mishal disputed Abbas' position that political action alone can bring results.

    But he added: "We fully understand that the Palestinian people need to take a breath and take advantage of the current initiatives, without abandoning basic principles."

    The ongoing talks are the broadest between Palestinian factions for years, thanks to high-level representation by groups based in Damascus and opposed to the Palestinian Authority's policies.

    Sulayman (R) has been mediating
    between Israelis and Palestinians

    A senior Palestinian official said the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the leaders of the Damascus groups were discussing whether they might move to Gaza after a planned Israeli withdrawal.

    Mutasim Hamada of the Damascus-based Democratic Front said: "If one metre of our Palestinian land is liberated, we don't mind moving to it. We are refugees in Syria and we all want to return to our homeland."

    Higher authority

    Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad group called for forming a preparatory committee to study establishing a Higher Palestinian National Authority that guarantees the participation of all Palestinian factions in decision-making.

    "The PA has to take measures to start forming the committee that could carry out reform and fighting corruption to serve our people and promote living standards," Anwar Abu Taha, spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad, told Aljazeera from Cairo.
    Abu Taha said his resistance group is prepared to commit to a short-term truce provided that the PA would not ask his group to disarm.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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