PMO: Gaza truce to go into effect 6 A.M. Sunday
Meshal sets six-month ultimatum for agreement on Palestinian state, blames Israel for lack of progress on Shalit deal.
An Israeli and Palestinian cease-fire in the Gaza Strip is to go into effect at 6 a.m. Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said Saturday.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Olmert late Saturday to tell him he had arrived at an agreement with all Palestinian factions to stop all violence from Gaza, Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin said.
Abbas asked that Israel reciprocate by stopping all military operations in Gaza and withdrawing all its forces and Olmert agreed, she said.
An Abbas spokesman said later in Gaza City that Palestinian armed factions had agreed to stop their military activity in Gaza on Sunday morning and reinstate a truce reached in Egypt in Feburary 2005. Olmert has agreed, in turn, to halt Israeli military operations in the coastal strip, Nabil Abu Rdeneh said.
"There is a signed agreement between the president and Prime Minister [Ismail] Haniyeh and all the Palestinian factions to resort to the agreement of the factions in Cairo in 2005, including ceasing all the military activity from Gaza, starting from Sunday morning," Abu Rdeneh said. "The Israeli prime minister has agreed, and it is going to start tomorrow morning."
Olmert earlier told Abbas that the Israel Defense Forces would end military operations if Palestinian militants uphold a pledge made earlier in the day to halt Qassam rocket fire.
Olmert made the remarks to Abbas during a telephone call in which the PA chairman informed the prime minister of the offer to end rocket strikes in return for a cessation of military activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
On Saturday evening, the Palestinian factions announced that they had agreed that, as of Sunday morning, they would halt the rocket fire on Israel. In return, the representatives of the factions demanded that Israel end its operations in Gaza.
One of the spokesmen for the factions, Abu Abir of the Popular Resistance Committees, said that the Palestinians expect Israel to stop its operations in the West Bank as well. Nevertheless, when asked by Haaretz if the Qassam attacks would resume if Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank, Abu Abir said that Israel must first end the targeted killings and its invasion of Gaza.
"After that we can talk about what we would view as a violation of the cease-fire," he said.
Meshal threatens uprising if Palestinian state not establishedHamas political leader Khaled Meshal said Saturday his group was willing to give peace negotiations six months to reach an agreement for a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, but threatened a new uprising if talks fail.
Meshal was meeting with Egyptian officials who have been acting as intermediaries in the crisis over kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and on the formation of a Palestinian unity government of Hamas and Fatah.
"We give six months to open real political horizons ... we agreed on the national accord to establish a Palestinian state, with the June 4, 1967 borders," he said. "They have to seize this opportunity."
Meshal warned that if an agreement is not reached within that time, "Hamas will become stronger and the resistance will resume ... and will go on with a third uprising."
Also Saturday, Meshal blamed Israel for the lack of progress on a deal that would lead to an agreement to free Shalit, captured by Hamas militants in June, in exchange for some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
"We are not the reason behind postponing the decision; the postponing of a settlement is due to the other side," Meshal said.
The exiled Hamas leader, who lives in Syria, was more optimistic on the prospects of forming an agreement for a unity government, saying that "good strides" had been made, but more time would be needed.
Meshal said in an interview published Friday in the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Watan that if Israel takes serious measures to release teenage and female prisoners, he will see it as proof of its good intentions.
Meshal arrived in Cairo late Thursday for talks with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman, on the prisoner exchange and unity government.
Both sides said after the talks that they had held a "positive discussion."
Meshal arrived in Cairo as head of an envoy of senior members from the Hamas Damascus branch, including Imad al-Alami, head of the Damascus bureau and Mohammad Nasser, a member of the group's Policy Bureau.
His visit was planned for the end of last October, but was postponed for unknown reasons. Arab media outlets speculated that Meshal's arrival in Cairo signals that Hamas is ready to negotiate on the issue of Shalit's release, with Egypt brokering a potential deal.
This week, a senior source involved with Hamas-Israel negotiations said there progress had been made on a potential swap, and that a deal securing Shalit's release could be reached by the Eid ul-Adha holiday at the end of December.
Meshal's visit also included discussions with former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League. Sources said Meshal also planned to meet with the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mohammed Mehadi al-Mahdy Akef.
On Friday, Israel said it wants Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets on the Negev before it ends its operations in the Gaza Strip, rejecting Palestinian demands that Israel take the first step to institute a partial lull in violence.
Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah have offered to stop firing Qassam rockets on Israel if the IDF first ceases its operations in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said Friday.
He said the Qassam fire at Israel could give the perception that the Palestinians are armed, and it would be preferable for them to appear weak opposite "Israeli aggression." However, he said the Palestinians will not stop their attacks until Israel does.
Government spokeswoman Miri Eisin responded to the proposal by saying Israel would only stop its actions after militants laid down their weapons.
"Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups have chosen to fire rockets into Israel day in and day out," Eisin said. "Israel will continue to defend its citizens against the rockets and will only stop its actions once those who fire, store and make the rockets and those who smuggle in their components cease their actions."
In addition, IDF sources told Israel Radio on Friday that military activity in the Gaza Strip will continue, and even intensify, in an effort to move the Qassam cells to areas that are less suited to firing rockets at Israel.
Labor Party Secretary-General Eitan Cabel, however, said he would be glad to accept a deal that could lead to a cease-fire. Last year's disengagement from the Gaza Strip was meant to put a halt to the hostility and killing in the area, he said.
"If this could lead to a cease-fire, I would be very happy for it to happen," Cabel told Israel Radio.
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