Hamas dampens Palestinian-Israeli truce

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Following the much hailed truce between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, the most powerful armed group in Palestine has declared that the conference in Sharm el-Sheikh has changed nothing.

Hamas said that although the Palestinian leaders had announced a truce, the organisation was not bound to it. The group also said in a statement that it should have been consulted first, a view shared by another militant group - Islamic Jihad.

Both groups have largely observed an unofficial ceasefire for the past three weeks, having reached an understanding with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that would enable him to negotiate with Israel in an environment of relative calm.

The groups appear to have come to an agreement that they should continue to observe a month's calm, as agreed with Abbas in late January. Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri told Aljazeera that Hamas leaders would be seeking a meeting with Abbas within the next few days to discuss the summit. Masri, however, said that the Sharm el-Sheikh talks had been "disappointing," as the agreement did not represent many of the Palestinian groups.

Khadir Habib, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, said, "Islamic Jihad has endorsed a one-month period of quiet and we will respect it", indicating that some Palestinian groups may be willing to withdraw from violence in order to give the new peace process time to develop, however, some violence and hostility have greeted the new ceasefire, with gunfire from an Israeli settlement which has reportedly critically injured a 22-year-old Palestinian man. The Israeli army said it is to check the report.