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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 16:11 GMT
Palestinian groups disown truce
Israeli tank guards Jewish settlement of  Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip
A de facto ceasefire was already in operation before the truce
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have said they are not bound by the ceasefire agreed between Palestinian and Israeli leaders at a summit in Egypt on Tuesday.

The two militant groups were at the forefront of attacks on Israel during the Palestinian uprising, but have been observing an unofficial truce.

The ceasefire is designed to end four years of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Israel is expected to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners shortly, and hand over control of some West Bank towns.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that Israel had agreed to remove major roadblocks as part of its withdrawal from the five towns in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, a high-level meeting of the "quartet" tasked with advancing the Middle East peace process - the US, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations - will be held in London on 1 March.

The gathering will occur during a conference promoting steps to Palestinian statehood, set up by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

'No deal'

Hamas representative Osama Hamdan said in Lebanon that the ceasefire declarations were "not binding" on Hamas members.

Ariel Sharon (L) shakes hands with Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt

"We agreed with [Mahmoud Abbas] that any truce that should take place must be according to the result of an inter-Palestinian dialogue," he told the Associated Press news agency.

"The resistance is not committed to what has been agreed at the summit... since the Palestinian conditions were not achieved.

"We consider that there is no truce and there is no deal to stop the resistance."

An Islamic Jihad spokesman, Mohammed al-Hindi, said the summit had brought "nothing new".

However, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said he was "fully content" that compliance with the ceasefire would be "complete and comprehensive".

A senior Palestinian official has meanwhile been sent to Lebanon to urge the Hezbollah militia to back the peace moves, French news agency AFP reports, citing unnamed sources.

Abdelfatah Hamayel will reportedly try to get Hezbollah to cut support for Palestinian militant attacks, which Israel has accused it of funding.

The BBC's Alan Johnston, in the Gaza Strip, says Mr Abbas has effectively said to the militants that he can achieve more through dialogue and negotiation than they could through their bombings and missile attacks.

He adds that if Mr Abbas cannot deliver, the likes of Hamas will argue that Israel only listens to the language of the rocket and the Kalashnikov.

Find out how the ceasefire will be implemented

Israel and the Palestinians



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