Palestinian factions agree to Israel truce

Palestinian militant factions meeting in Cairo agreed on Wednesday to a proposal for a truce with Israel, set to begin in the Gaza Strip. The Jewish state said it would stop Gaza air raids if there was an end to missile-fire.



CAIRO, April 30 (Reuters) - Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo for talks with Egyptian security officials have agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a truce with Israel starting in the Gaza Strip, state news agency MENA said on Wednesday.


But a number of factions were equivocal in their support for the truce, and some said they reserved the right to retaliate against Israeli attacks.


“All the Palestinian factions have agreed to the Egyptian proposal on a truce with Israel,” MENA said, citing an unnamed high-level Egyptian official.


The official said the proposal included a “comprehensive, reciprocal and simultaneous truce, implemented in a graduated framework starting in the Gaza Strip and then subsequently moving to the West Bank,” MENA added.


MENA said the proposal was part of a broader plan eventually leading to the lifting of the blockade which Israel, with Egyptian help, has imposed on Gaza since last June.


The plan includes attempts to reconcile the two biggest Palestinian factions—the Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip and the Fatah group which controls the Palestinian Authority from its base in the West Bank.


Egypt invited 12 Palestinian groups for talks to form a consensus on a proposal for a ceasefire that emerged from talks between Egypt and Hamas as part of efforts to end violence threatening talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.


Israel has been killing Hamas members in Gaza and the West Bank while Hamas and other groups have been firing crude rockets across the border into Israel. Each side says it is responding to attacks by the other.


Talal Nagy of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, one of the groups attending the talks, said: “We are in favour of the truce, on the condition that it be balanced, reciprocal, equal and comprehensive, to include Gaza and the West Bank as well.”


Ghazi Hussein of the small group Saiqa said his group supported the truce on similar terms, but that this did not mean they would “end the resistance to the Israeli occupation”.


The group Islamic Jihad said on Tuesday it had approved a truce with Israel starting in the Gaza Strip, but reserved the right to respond to Israeli attacks in the West Bank.


“Despite our reservations, we have given a chance to the Egyptian effort to lift the siege and end the aggression,” Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees said in Gaza.


Senior Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Rabah Mhana told Reuters his group would not be an obstacle to a Palestinian consensus, but that it believed a truce under occupation would be harmful.


Hamas welcomed news of the agreement in Cairo and said Palestinian demands to lift the blockade and open border crossings must be met, adding that the agreement “kicks the ball into the Israeli court”.


Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said: “For quiet to be sustainable and to be real it must contain three essential elements: total absence of hostile fire from Gaza into Israel, an end to terrorist attacks, and the end of illicit arm transfers. If this was to happen we could have quiet tomorrow.”


Israel previously dismissed Hamas’s truce offer as a ploy to gain time to prepare for more fighting, but said it would have no reason to attack the Gaza Strip if Palestinians stopped firing missiles across the border.


Israel pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005 but still controls its borders and has tightened its restrictions since Hamas seized control there last year.

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