Palestinian Factions Pledge to Halt Rocket Fire if Israel Stops Gaza Assault

The Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah agreed last night to stop launching Qassam rockets against Israel, if the Israel Defense Forces cease its operations in the Gaza Strip, Islamic Jihad source Hader Habib said last night.

According to Habib, the understandings between the various Palestinian factions were reached during a meeting of representatives of the groups and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled Meshal, traveled to Cairo from Damascus where he is based for meetings with the Egyptian Chief of Intelligence, General Omar Suleiman.

The two discussed the details of a deal to exchange the abducted IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit, for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Meshal arrived in Cairo at the head of a delegation of senior Hamas officials, permanently based in the Syrian capital.

Among those in the delegation is Imad al-Ilmi, the director of the Hamas bureau in Damascus, and Muhammed Nasser, a member in the political council.

In preparation for the visit, Hamas officials were busy trying to lower expectations for any major breakthrough in the Shalit affair."There is no breakthrough or a pending deal to exchange prisoners," they told reporters.

Speaking with Israel Radio yesterday, Osama al-Mazini, one of the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, said that the purpose of Meshal's visit to Cairo is to hear about the Egyptian proposal for a prisoner exchange.

In the Gaza Strip yesterday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with Haniyeh for talks on the formation of a national unity government. No major breakthroughs were reported following the meeting.

Senior Hamas officials stressed yesterday that they were demanding the release of 1400-1500 Palestinian prisoners in return for Shalit.

Osama Hamdan, representing Hamas in Beirut, said the organization is demanding that Israel release all women and minors held in Israeli prisons before a deal takes place. The deal would then be followed by the release of 1000 prisoners parallel to the release of Shalit.

At a later stage Hamas expects the release of 500 more Palestinian prisoners.