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Islamic Jihad in Bethlehem reports ´understanding´ with Authority (JERUSALEM POST) By KHALED ABU TOAMEH 08/09/03) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1060407899316
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Muhammed Shehadeh, the head of Islamic Jihad´s armed wing in Bethlehem, said over the weekend that his group has reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority according to which the Palestinian security forces would not take any measures against Islamic Jihad members and offices in the city.
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An expert in manufacturing bombs, Shehadeh, who has been on the top of Israel´s list of wanted terrorists for more than eight years, said the agreement was reached with senior Palestinian Authority officials, with whom he has "excellent and personal relations."
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"We have an agreement and understandings [with the Palestinian Authority] that there would be no arrests of activists or raids on Islamic Jihad offices and institutions or confiscation of our money," he added.
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"I have personal relations with many Palestinian Authority officials," he boasted, pointing out that in the past he was a member of Yasser Arafat´s Fatah faction. "I have very good relations with all the factions, including Fatah, my former party. I will try to use these relations to tackle negative phenomena in the city and fight corruption."
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Shehadeh told the Palestinian daily al-Hayat al-Jadeeda that he supports the unilateral cease-fire announced by Islamic Jihad and other factions last month. "The hudna [truce] is a necessity required by the higher interests of the Palestinian people," he explained. "It preserves unity on the Palestinian street and prevents attempts to spark a Palestinian civil war that will only serve the interests of the enemy.
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Asked whether Islamic Jihad would agree to extend the three-month truce, Shehadeh said this depends on what happens on the Palestinian arena and whether Israel fulfills its own obligations. "If the Israelis continue to launch attacks on our people and refuse to make concessions, such as withdrawing from more cities and releasing more prisoners and detainees, the hudna will certainly cease to exist," he warned.
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But, he went to say, "The political, economic and security crises created by the intifada and the resistance will lead the Israeli government to think seriously about the price of maintaining its occupation. I believe that the intifada and the continued resistance will force Israel to retreat and make concessions."
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Shehadeh, who was released in the 1985 prisoner swap between Israel and the Popular Front General Command, was one of 400 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists deported to southern Lebanon in 1992. He claims that Israel has tried to assassinate him several times over the past two years. The last attempt was on May 25, 2002, when undercover IDF soldiers surrounded his house near Manger Square. He managed to escape by jumping out of the window.
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The Islamic Jihad leader believes that the Israeli security forces became more interested in him after he converted from a Muslim Sunni to a Shiite. "They consider this to be very serious because of their bitter and painful experience with Hizbullah," he said. (© 1995-2003, The Jerusalem Post 08/09/03)
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