Monday, 29 July 2002

Palestinian militants plan new offer to end attacks

By Matthew Kalman, USA TODAY
29 July, 2002

JERUSALEM — Palestinian militant groups said Monday that they plan to renew their offer to end attacks against Israeli civilians despite last week's Israeli airstrike that killed an extremist leader and more than a dozen Palestinian civilians in Gaza City.

The proposed moratorium on attacks against civilians in Israel and the occupied territories was scheduled to be announced last week. But the announcement was put on hold after an Israeli F-16 warplane bombed the Gaza residence of Salah Shehadeh, leader of the military wing of the Hamas resistance movement. Also killed in the attack: a senior aide to Shehadeh and 15 civilians.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told the parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that he did not believe the efforts to achieve a moratorium on attacks against Israelis were serious. His comments came as Israeli officials floated their own confidence-building proposals. They say they want to alleviate the hardships caused by security measures, which have prompted international criticism.

Israel also granted 5,000 more work permits to Palestinians, bringing to 12,000 the number of Palestinians authorized to work in Israel. About 100,000 Palestinians have been prevented from working in Israel for more than a year, fueling anger. Palestinians confined to their homes in Nablus in the West Bank on Monday defied an Israeli curfew for a second day.

Israeli officials also said they would turn over $15 million to the Palestinian finance minister Monday, the first of three installments of tax revenue withheld by Israel during 22 months of fighting.

Hatem Abdel Kader, a leader of the Fatah Tanzim militia in Jerusalem, said he and other Palestinian officials had been prepared to call a unilateral halt to armed attacks on Israeli civilians, including Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Abdel Kader said he visited Iran three months ago to try to persuade Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join the moratorium by groups aligned with Fatah. "There were signs that they would agree," Abdel Kader said. Last week, Hamas' spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, said the group had been seriously considering a cease-fire.

The call for a cease-fire was due to be published last week first in The Times of London and later in Israeli and Arab newspapers. It was canceled after the Israeli airstrike.

Abdel Kader said Hamas, angry over Shehadeh's assassination, now opposes a cease-fire. "Despite that, we are continuing with our dialogue and we will continue to put pressure on our brothers in Hamas and Islamic Jihad," he said.

Mark Perry, a Washington political activist with connections to the Palestinian leadership, said militia leaders have moral and political reasons for a cease-fire.

"On the moral side, they were beginning to understand that they were raising a generation of children whose lives would be lost in hatred. On the political side, they saw the continuing political disintegration of their society," Perry said. "Both of these taken together were intolerable."

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