Hamas, Islamic Jihad Pledge to Honor Truce With Israel Under Unity Government

Palestinian rival factions to sign reconciliation agreement on Wednesday; relations with Israel expected to take center stage.

Hamas officials said Monday that the Islamist militant group would honor an unofficial truce with Israel after forming a new unity government with Palestinian rivals from the West Bank.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is set to sign a reconciliation agreement with Fatah on Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction to end the rivals' four-year rift. A joint caretaker government is planned ahead of elections next year.

Fatah, Hamas

Officials also said that Islamic Jihad, which has firedr barrages of rockets and mortar shells at Israel in recent years, had agreed to honor the truce as well.

Relations with Israel will be a key issue for the interim government, as the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has been engaged in the peace process while Hamas refuses to recognize the Israel's right to exist.

Although Hamas has insisted it will not change its stance on recognizing Israel, security officials from the organization said on Tuesday that militants have agreed to hold their fire after the new government is formed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the cease-fire is not officially part of the deal.

The reconciliation accord, which was initialed by senior Hamas and Fatah officials in Cairo last week prior to the official signing ceremony, is intended to prepare for Palestinian elections within a year.

Israeli leaders have slammed the accord and said that Abbas must choose between reconciliation with Hamas or peace with Israel.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday that the unity agreement be a cause for concern for "all those in the world who aspire to see peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors."

A future peace between Israel and the Palestinians will be created "only with those who want to be on our side, and not those who want our annihilation," Netanyahu said.