Israel-Palestine ceasefire begins with violence

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Minor violent incidents and claims of Lebanese sabotage marked an unsteady start today for the Israeli-Palestinian truce, already threatened after militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced that they were not bound by the agreement.

Two Israeli motorists escaped uninjured in the West Bank today after coming under fire from Palestinian gunmen.

Elsewhere, Hamas militant Hassan Alami was found dead in the Khan Younis camp of Southern Gaza, killed while carrying out activities for the group. Although Hamas refused to be bound by the agreement signed yesterday in Sharm el-Sheik, it has promised to keep quiet at the request of Mahmoud Abbas.

Another Palestinian man is in a critical condition after being shot in the chest. The man, from the Rafah refugee camp, was shot near the Israeli settlement of Atzmona. The Israeli army, which has a garrison in Atzmona, is looking into the incident.

Meanwhile, Ramallah has accused Lebanese rebel group Hezbollah of attempting to sabotage the fragile peace agreement in the Middle East. The group, backed by Syria and Iran, are attempting to recruit Palestinian militants to engage in attacks of Israeli targets, claim Palestinian spokesmen. The charges mirror those made recently by Israel, which has long accused Hezbollah of bankrolling Palestinian violence in the region.

Hezbollah denies the charges, and claims to be honouring the ceasefire agreed yesterday. However, Palestinian officials claim to have intercepted bank records and email communications that prove that the guerilla group is recruiting militants in the West Bank. Abbas is shying away from any confrontation with the group at the moment, but has sent an envoy to Beirut to persuade Hezbollah to desist from its aggressive activities.

Despite the setbacks, Israel has begun to lift restrictions of travel and issue permits to 1000 Palestinians to work in Israel, as part of Tuesday's deal. Sharon has agreed to travel to Ramallah to continue talks toward peace in the region.