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Palestinians threaten to end truce (GUARDIAN UK) Chris McGreal in Jerusalem, ISRAEL 02/02/05)Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1403677,00.html GUARDIAN UK GUARDIAN UK Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Hamas and seven other Palestinian groups threatened yesterday to call off a truce and return to "all-out martyrdom attacks" - suicide bombings - unless Israel commits itself to ending army raids and killings in the occupied territories.

The demand followed the killing of a 10-year-old girl at her school in a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza on Monday. Hamas blamed the Israeli army and retaliated by firing about a dozen mortars at Jewish settlements in Gaza over the past two days, without causing injury.

The Israeli government responded to the mortar attacks by saying it would slow a planned pull-back from Palestinian towns in the West Bank due to begin today.

Israel´s defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, warned the Palestinian leadership that the government is not prepared to accept a situation in which Hamas launches what it regards as limited retaliation for Israeli actions while still claiming to respect the truce.

Mr Mofaz said that after the mortar attacks Israel was no longer prepared to hand over security responsibility for five West Bank towns this week as agreed. It now proposes to do so one by one over the coming weeks. "This quiet is very fragile. An active Palestinian operation is required to stop terror attacks and especially the mortar and rocket fire," Mr Mofaz told Israel radio.

The threat by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other armed groups followed the shooting of Noran Deeb in the playground of her school in Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza. The military denies responsibility.

But even before her death, Palestinian resistance groups had been grown increasingly restless over the continued killings and arrests by the military during the past 10 days.

Israeli forces have killed 12 Palestinians over the period, including a 65 year-old man who wandered into a Gaza security strip and a Hamas activist who attempted to flee arrest. No Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks during the period.

A 51-day ceasefire by Hamas and its allies in 2003 collapsed in part because of continued Israeli arrests and killings of Palestinian fighters.

But at the end of last week, the Israeli army chief of staff, Moshe Ya´alon, ordered an end to all such operations without his personal approval.

A senior military officer, Major General Aharon Ze´evi, told an Israeli parliamentary committee yesterday that Hamas was part of a regional "axis of evil" intent on sabotaging a truce. But Palestinian officials said they remained confident that Hamas and its allies would agree to a comprehensive ceasefire if Israel agreed to respect it.

The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is expected to arrive in Jerusalem on Sunday to press both sides toward an agreement that involves the Palestinian security forces disarming militant groups in return for an Israeli military pull-back to its positions at the beginning of the intifada in 2000.

Israel´s attorney general has ordered the government to cancel a secret decision to confiscate thousands of acres of Arab-owned land in and around Jerusalem from Palestinians separated from their property by the West Bank barrier.

Menachem Mazuz said he was not consulted when Ariel Sharon´s cabinet made the decision last July, and that seizing the land violated international law on occupied territories and would damage Israel´s diplomatic standing.

But hundreds of Palestinian families will only regain access to their land if the army lets them pass through the barrier. (Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004 02/02/05)

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