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Palestinian factions offer partial truce (JERUSALEM POST) By KHALED ABU TOAMEH Herb Keinon contributed to this report. 12/06/03) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1070512329377
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Representatives of various Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo said on Saturday they are prepared to halt attacks on civilians inside Israel, but stopped short of accepting a total cease-fire.
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The groups said the move is conditioned on Israel´s agreement to stop targeting Palestinian civilians.
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Five groups – including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, and al-Saiqa – rejected a full cessation of attacks against Israel, arguing that the Palestinians are getting nothing in return from Israel.
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The groups maintained that in any case they have the right to continue attacks against IDF soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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Fatah and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine are the only two groups that openly supported a halt to attacks on Israelis on both sides of the Green Line.
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"We have reached an agreement on many issues, but there was a disagreement on the proposed hudna [cease-fire]," said Husam Arafat, a member of the delegation representing the PFLP. "Now there is a compromise that calls for keeping civilians from both sides outside the cycle of violence."
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He said the PFLP and the four other groups were prepared to accept the compromise only if Israel agreed to a number of conditions, including halting targeted killings and "aggressions" against the Palestinians, lifting the closure, releasing all the prisoners, and stopping work on the security fence.
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The PFLP official said the five groups would be prepared to discuss a total cease-fire once Israel fulfills all these conditions.
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Hamas representative Muhammad Nazzal said his group is demanding international guarantees that Israel would stop its military operations once the Palestinians accept a cease-fire. "We can´t speak of a truce as long as the [Israeli] enemy has not stopped its attacks," he said.
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"Speaking of a truce is illogical. The enemy must stop its aggression first, and then we can speak of a truce. We have no guarantees."
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"This means that we will stop targeting Israeli civilians if Israel stops targeting Palestinian civilians and fulfills other conditions. We can´t accept a broader cease-fire at this stage, because we want to see what [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon will offer in return. Therefore, the issue of a hudna is not on the table at this phase."
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Muhammad al-Hindi, a senior Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip, confirmed that the Cairo talks had failed to reach an agreement on a total cease-fire. "The most significant achievement of the [Cairo] talks is that we have agreed to the principle of sparing civilians from this war," he said.
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Hindi said that Islamic Jihad is now waiting to see if Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei would be able to get a positive answer from Israel on the compromise. "If he manages to secure an [Israeli] agreement to this compromise, we will meet once again to decide on the total cease-fire," he added.
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Qurei, who arrived in Cairo over the weekend, stayed away from the talks between the 12 factions after being told about the sharp disagreements. His aides said he is scheduled to attend the discussions on Sunday. Qurei and the Egyptians are seeking a clear statement from all groups accepting a total cease-fire with Israel.
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The refusal of Hamas and the Syrian-backed groups to accept an all- out and unconditional truce resulted in a crisis on Friday night, with Fatah´s chief negotiator, Zakaria al-Agha, storming out of the talks. Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman spent the hours trying to persuade Agha to return to the negotiating table.
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"We cannot say we failed, but we didn´t get to what we want," said Fatah delegate Ahmed Ghneim. "Nothing is impossible, but it is looking less likely that we will have a comprehensive cease-fire."
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Sharon´s bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, is scheduled to meet Sunday with Qurei´s bureau chief, Hassan Abu Libdeh, for the second time in two weeks. However, despite weeks of talking about a potential meeting between Sharon and Qurei, there is still no date for such a meeting.
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Senior Israeli diplomatic officials said the problem in scheduling a meeting has to do with the Palestinians. According to these officials, "Things are stalled because of Palestinian problems agreeing on the terms of a cease-fire in Cairo." According to this school of thought, Qurei does not want to meet with Sharon until he has hammered out an agreement with the different Palestinians terror organizations about the terms of a cease-fire. The official said Qurei knows there is no reason for a meeting unless he has something concrete to present.
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The official also said that Israel will not accept a cease-fire that allows the Palestinian to continue carrying out attacks across the Green Line. Herb Keinon contributed to this report. (© 1995-2003, The Jerusalem Post 12/06/03)
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