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Israeli Ceasefire in Return for Partial Arab Truce

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Saturday night agreed to withdraw all troops from the Gaza area and cease anti-terrorist actions in return for a halt to terrorist attacks from the region.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/26/2006, 12:33 AM / Last Update: 11/25/2006, 11:39 PM

However, at least one of the terrorist organizations denied a Hamas claim it agreed to the partial truce, which is to take effect at 6 a.m. Sunday (11 p.m. Saturday night EST). Prime Minister Olmert said Israel will abide by the truce so long as there are no violations by the PA.

Two days ago, the government rejected a proposal by terrorist organizations that they halt rocket fire, but not other terrorist attacks, in return for a total halt to counter-terrorist actions by Israel throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

The latest Palestinian Authority (PA) offer includes a ban on suicide bombings and other attacks but only from the Gaza area, and it does not mention the smuggling of arms and terrorists. Israel's promise to stop retaliating against terrorists in the Gaza area also does not refer to similar activity in Judea and Samaria.

"After the zero hour, we are going to throw the ball into the Israeli court," said Khaled Abu Hilal, the Hamas Interior Minister. "A few hours after the zero hour, we will meet to evaluate the Israeli response."

Hilal said the agreement was coordinated with Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee, as well as the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The latter group, aligned with the rival Fatah faction of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, denied it was part of the deal.
The revised truce offer came two days after Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for the Prime Minister, explained the rejection of the initial proposal. "The suggestion concerns a partial ceasefire, limited to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, in exchange for a total halt to Israeli operations on all fronts. This is not serious," she explained.

She added, "We want to see quiet in the Gaza Strip." However, terrorists two fired rockets at Israel after the agreement was announced. They exploded in open areas. Between Friday and midnight Israeli time Saturday night, Arab terrorists had fired 12 rockets at the western Negev, one of which scored a direct hit on a Sderot house whose residents had gone elsewhere for the Jewish Sabbath.

There also were tactical differences between the Friday proposal and Saturday night's ceasefire offer. The terrorist organizations originally conditioned the truce on Israel's agreement, but the latest announcement called for a unilateral halt of Arab rocket fire. Terrorist leaders warned that if Israel did not follow suit, with a halt to all counter-terrorist actions, they would consider escalating attacks.

Friday's offer also was contingent on Israel's first stopping retaliation, a condition not stated in the latest offer.

Abbas advised Fatah officials on Friday that "we do not need these rockets because they are no match for Israel's weaponry and because they draw a violent and harsh Israeli response," according to the official PA web site.

He phoned Prime Minister Olmert office on Saturday and "requested that Israel would stop all military operations in the Gaza Strip, and withdraw all its forces from there." A spokesman for the PA leader said that the terrorist organization operating in Gaza promised to put into effect the Sharm el-Sheikh accord of February 2005, which instead of being implemented was followed by several deadly suicide bombing attacks against Israel.

Saturday night's cease fire agreement came hours after Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader based in Damascus, threatened a new and more violent Intifada if Israel does not give up in six months all parts of the country that were re-gained in the Six-Day War in 1967.

He made the remarks after meeting with Egyptian leaders concerning IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, whom terrorists kidnapped in June in a deadly strike on an IDF Gaza crossing position in Israel.

Neither Prime Minister Olmert nor Abbas referred to Shalit in their phone discussion Saturday, but Meshaal's visit to Cairo may be a sign that Hamas is prepared for serious discussions for releasing the soldier. The Hamas leader previously had cancelled at least two planned visit to Cairo, sending junior officials instead.