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Egyptian Team Set for Inter-Palestinian Gaza Talks

PM Abbas, Egyptian Team Set for Inter-Palestinian Talks in Gaza

The Palestine National Authority’s (PNA) Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and an Egyptian team of mediators are expected in Gaza Monday to begin inter-Palestinian national dialogue aimed at securing an agreement on a proposed truce with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).

Abbas’ visit to Gaza is to coincide with the arrival in the city of a team of Egyptian security officials, headed by intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who will be attempting to broker a ceasefire.

The central committee of the Fatah movement was slated to meet in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday to debate the upcoming factional dialogue with PM Abbas and the team of Egyptian security officials, a senior Palestinian official told AFP.

However, the key to peace still lay with the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas,’ which has rejected the US-backed and internationally-adopted “roadmap” to peace in the Middle East.

Palestinian and Israeli security officials on Saturday resumed top-level talks and the Palestinian PLO leadership will hold a meeting Sunday to discuss a Palestinian – Israeli truce proposal.

On the table is a proposal that Israel withdraw from parts of the Gaza Strip to positions held before the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000.

Hamas and other groups have announced their rejection of any truce under continued Israeli occupation and aggressions.

“Hamas is rejecting any call for ceasefire under occupation,” senior Hamas leader Abdul Aziz al-Rantisi told AFP Saturday. “The word ceasefire is not in our dictionary.”

“We are being attacked, the Palestinian people, our land, our religious sites are being attacked by Zionist terrorists. This is a situation of self-defense and we will continue to defend ourselves,” he said.

Al-Rantisi survived an Israeli extra-judicial assassination attempt last Tuesday.

Similarly the Islamic Jihad, also rejected the proposal, describing it as “trick.”

“What is a three-day ceasefire? Will he (Israeli PM Sharon) start shelling again after three days? If there is no clear position on ending the occupation and releasing prisoners, we will go back to the cycle of violence,” said the group’s leader, Mohammed al-Hindi.

“Sharon’s proposal looks to us like a trick for international opinion, but in the meantime we are the ones being hit,” he told AFP. “We reject this ceasefire.”

Nonetheless, Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin was reported Sunday to accept an IOF withdrawal from Gaza.

Israeli “withdrawal must not be from Gaza only, but from Gaza from Gaza then from all the cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until the occupation is completely removed,” Palestinian Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily quoted him as saying.

Hamas “may stop defense and resistance for a while until the Israeli premier Ariel Sharon implements certain conditions on which we agree with the PNA,” Yassin added.

He said that Hamas has not decided yet on the truce proposal and did not give an answer, as contacts continue with the PNA on one hand and with Arabs on the other.

Similarly, Al-Rantisi may be ready for a “partial” truce.

Ha’aretz on Sunday reported that Al-Rantisi “is ready for a partial hudna” if IOF stop their aggressions against Palestinian civilians. “That is, he is prepared to stop attacking Israeli civilians within the Green Line, while continuing to wage an armed struggle against soldiers and settlers,” the Israeli daily said.

The PNA meanwhile is trying to secure guarantees to encourage this trend inside Hamas.

“The Palestinian Authority cannot meet its responsibilities without a U.S. guarantee that Israel will stop its military escalation,” said the PNA Minister of Cabinet Affairs Yasser Abed Rabbo, cited by Ha’aretz.


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