Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh met yesterday with representatives of the 12 main Palestinian organizations, including the Hamas, to try to persuade them of the logic of the "gradual cease-fire" plan embodied in the Gaza and Bethlehem first program.

Yehiyeh's meeting with the National-Islamic Monitoring Committee, which includes representatives from all the main organizations, came after weeks in which the committee tried to hammer out a unified statement on a cease-fire, never reached because of Hamas opposition. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual patron of Hamas, said that his movement has no intention of ceasing what he called resistance to the Israeli occupation.

The PA's security services, led by the Preventive Security Force, have chosen to start with trying to persuade the Islamic organizations to accept the cease-fire deal, by trying to isolate them from the rest of the organizations, which appear likely to go along with the deal. The PA's overriding concern is to avoid arresting Islamic activists, fearing it could spark a civil war.