Hamas, Fatah Support Abbas Bid to Extend Cease-fire to West Bank

Hamas and Fatah both support Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' bid to extend the cease-fire with Israel from Gaza to the West Bank, but Islamic Jihad does not agree, Haaretz has learned.

Abbas nevertheless plans to propose an expanded cease-fire to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at their meeting on Sunday, in exchange for Israeli noninterference with the Palestinian unity government that is due to be formed next week - including not urging Western countries to boycott it.

Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met on Tuesday with representatives of various Palestinian factions and presented the idea to them, and on Wednesday, Abbas' chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, met with representatives of the five largest factions in Gaza. But while Hamas and Fatah both accepted the idea, Islamic Jihad refused.

According to Palestinian sources, Islamic Jihad did not completely rule out the idea, but a Jihad representative told Reuters that the organization cannot consider it while "Zionist aggression" against the Palestinians, and particularly Jihad operatives, continues in the West Bank.

Abbas also plans to ask Olmert for various gestures, including a prisoner release, as well as for clarifications on Israel's policy toward the unity government.

Olmert, however, has announced that Israel will boycott any Fatah ministers who will participate in the unity government, unless such a government adheres to the three prerequisites put forth by the international Quartet, namely recognition of Israel, relinquishing violence and accepting previous accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Israel will also not offer any additional gestures to the Palestinians during the Olmert-Abbas meeting. There are concerns that some of the funds Israel transferred to the care of Abbas, for advancing security-related reforms, were used instead to pay for salaries of Palestinian security forces.

Chaos at Rafah

One Palestinian died, apparently of a heart attack, while four others were lightly injured by Palestinian gunfire yesterday as hundreds of Palestinians tried to force their way through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, and PA security forces opened fire in response.