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Hamas, Islamic Jihad Threaten to End Israeli Truce (REUTERS) By Mariam Karouny BEIRUT, LEBANON 07/13/03 01:30 PM ET) Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=I44D1S5FEOLI2CRBAEOCFFA?type=worldNews&storyID=3080574
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BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad warned Sunday they would end a truce with Israel if the Palestinian Authority went ahead with what they called a campaign to disarm them.
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The groups last month announced the halt on attacks in Israel as part of a U.S.-backed peace plan, which has also seen Israeli troops withdraw from some Palestinian areas and transfer security control to Palestinian Authority forces.
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"The Palestinian security forces decided to start a campaign aimed to disarm the resistance...We warn that such an act...will make us think seriously of going back on our initiative of halting the military attacks (against Israel)," the two militant groups said in a joint statement faxed to Reuters.
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An Islamic Jihad official told Reuters Palestinian security forces in Gaza were gearing up for what appeared to be an attempt to disarm them, and said the groups could resume suicide bombings in response.
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"Preparations have begun on the ground, the Palestinian authority has deployed over 600 police and security forces to protect the settlements. They are searching people and cars and are stepping up (security) measures," Jihad official Abu Imad al-Rifai said.
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"We see it as a first step toward trying to gather the weapons of the resistance, and are unsettled about it," he said, adding: "All possibilities are out there, including a return to martyrdom operations."
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Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has demanded that new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas begin to dismantle militant groups before further Israeli withdrawals from Palestinian areas take place under the "road map" peace plan.
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Abbas has said a crackdown on militants -- behind suicide attacks in Israel since the uprising for independence began in September, 2000 -- could lead to a Palestinian civil war.
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The joint statement warned: "The Zionist enemy will bear the responsibility...and the Palestinian Authority as well if it continues in any move against the resistance forces and its weapons."
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The groups have also demanded the release of thousands of prisoners held by Israel, with Hamas threatening to kidnap Israeli soldiers unless they freed. Israel disputes the number of detainees and has ruled out freeing anyone involved in attacks on Israelis. (© Reuters 2003 07/13/03)
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