Palestinians Factions Agree Truce, Israel Defiant

CAIRO – Twelve Palestinian factions agreed on Wednesday, April 30, to an Egyptian proposal for a "comprehensive and reciprocal" truce starting in the Gaza Strip first, but Israel signaled a defiant tone even before getting the offer through Cairo.

"All Palestinian factions have agreed to the Egyptian proposal on a truce with Israel," said a statement issued by Egyptian intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman and received by

Suleiman met over the past two days with representatives of 12 factions including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and the Popular Struggle Front (PSF).

They have all committed themselves to a six-month "comprehensive, reciprocal and simultaneous truce," implemented in a graduated framework starting in the Gaza Strip and then subsequently moving to the West Bank.

"This proposal is a phase of a broader plan that aims at providing an appropriate atmosphere before lifting the blockade and ending the state of Palestinian division," an unnamed high-level Egyptian official told the MENA state news agency.

He said the initial period of calm would "pave the way to open other files such as a deal to swap prisoners with the Israeli side."

Hamas, which has been ruling Gaza since June, has already accepted the truce offer last week.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, the leader of rival Fatah, has also given his unconditional support for the Egyptian mediation.

The Palestinian factions asserted that the truce must guarantee and end to Israeli aggressions, reserving the right to retaliate if attacked.

Just hours after the truce announcement, an Israeli missile strike killed an Islamic Jihad member and wounded three others including a child in Gaza.

This brings to 445 the total number of people, the vast majority of them Palestinians, killed since November.

Defiant Israel

"The Israeli agreement to the Egyptian process constitutes the legitimization of Hamas," Dichter told a Cabinet meeting 
Egyptian officials would now take the truce proposal to Israel.

Suleiman, who has served as a go-between in truce negotiations, is expected to visit Israel next week.

The Israeli government, however, was quick to give an initial defiant response, saying any truce must require an end to what it called a persistent arms smuggling into Gaza from Egypt.

"To be sustainable and real, the calm must contain three vital elements — total absence of fire from Gaza against Israel, complete cessation of terrorist attacks and the end of arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip," spokesman Mark Regev said.

The majority of Israeli ministers have voiced objection to the truce.

"The Israeli agreement to the Egyptian process constitutes the legitimization of Hamas," Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.

Premier Ehud Olmert refrained from making any definitive decision during the meeting, saying he would wait for the defense establishment to study the offer.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak rejected on Tuesday any truce with Hamas, vowing to continue strikes against the Gaza Strip.

He argued it was time for "confrontation" with Hamas rather than to talk about peace or a ceasefire.

( and agencies)

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