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 Friday, 15 November, 2002, 17:14 GMT
Truce plan divides Palestinian groups
Ariel Sharon looks down on Nablus from army position
Sharon seems set to return regardless of any truce
Egypt and Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement have urged the Palestinian militant group Hamas to halt attacks on civilians in Israel until after the 28 January elections there.

So long as nothing happens on the ground we will continue to do whatever it takes

Raanan Gissin
Sharon advisor

After four days of talks in Cairo between Hamas and Fatah, a Palestinian official said Hamas was considering the request but demanded that Israel "stop killing its leaders".

For its part, the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - an offshoot of Fatah - has rejected the proposed truce, saying it will continue suicide bombings.

The Israelis have cast doubt on the significance of the ceasefire plan, and said they not will not change their policy of "targeted killings" as long as attacks on Israelis continue.

"The question is not what happens in Cairo but what happens on the ground," said Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"So long as nothing happens on the ground we will continue to do whatever it takes," he added.

More talks

A Fatah official quoted by the French news agency AFP said an Egyptian proposal for a three-month truce was "satisfactory".

The Fatah official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify if the truce would extend to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

We will continue our resistance and our martyr operations in response to Zionist terrorism

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

"We in Fatah agreed to a satisfactory proposal put forth by our Egyptian brothers in Cairo to stop suicide operations inside Israel and attacks against civilians for several months," he said, if Israel in turn stopped "all arrests and the killing of Palestinian civilians".

"Hamas promised to study the document," the official added.

The political leader of Hamas, Abdel Aziz Rantissi, only said that the talks would continue back in the Palestinian territories without Egyptian mediation.

But the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades pledged to carry out further suicide bombings in Israel.

"We will continue our resistance and our martyr operations in response to Zionist terrorism," it said in a statement sent to AFP.

Boost for Sharon

Israel - which has dismissed any ceasefire if it does not extend to Jewish settlers in the Palestinian territories - looks set to re-elect prime minister Ariel Sharon on 28 January.

Polls for the primaries
Likud (28 November): Ariel Sharon - 54%; Binyamin Netanyahu - 38%
Labour (19 November): Amram Mitzna - 43%; Binyamin Ben-Eliezer - 26%; Haim Ramon - 10%
Sources: Yedioth Ahronoth, Haaretz newspapers

But Mr Sharon must pass his party's primary election on 28 November.

Three Israeli opinion polls published on Friday show him winning the race against Likud rival Binyamin Netanyahu with a double-digit lead.

On Thursday evening, Israeli troops burst into a banquet hall in the West Bank town of Ramallah and arrested 17 suspected Hamas militants who were ending their day's fast.

Israeli troops continued to consolidate their hold on the West Bank town of Nablus on Friday, with troops digging in.

They entered in force on Wednesday in apparent response to a gun attack on a kibbutz which left five people dead on Sunday night.

An 18-year-old Palestinian was arrested on Friday in Nablus on suspicion of planning a suicide attack, Israeli radio reports.


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14 Nov 02 | Middle East
07 Nov 02 | Middle East
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14 Nov 02 | Middle East
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