Palestinians agree to halt rocket attacks

Israeli officials: Let’s wait and see • Kassam hits Negev, causing no harm

By
April 6, 2010 03:39
2 minute read.
A Sderot security officer examines Gazan rocket

A Sderot security officer examines Gazan rocket . (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

 
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Hamas and several other Palestinian factions have decided to stop rocket attacks against Israel, so as not to give the IDF an excuse to launch a major offensive in the Gaza Strip, sources in Gaza City said on Monday.

Representatives of the factions, which held emergency discussions over the past few days, “stressed the need to maintain the unofficial cease-fire with Israel,” The sources said.

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The groups that agreed to stop firing rockets at Israel are Islamic Jihad, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in addition to Hamas, the sources added.

Representatives of Fatah who were invited to the meeting did not attend for “urgent reasons,” according to a report in the London-based pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily.

Nevertheless, a Kassam rocket slammed into the western Negev on Sunday night, causing no casualties or damage, but leading Israeli officials to take a wait-and-see attitude toward the report.“Let’s hope it is true,” one official said.

Earlier in the day, IAF helicopters attacked two armed Palestinians believed to be planting explosives on the Gaza border, the army said.

It is not known if the gunmen were hit.



The official said that Israel has made clear that it holds Hamas responsible for everything inside the Gaza Strip, and that the organization cannot “subcontract out” terrorist attacks to other groups, and then claim that it is not responsible.

“They are responsible for any hostile activity coming from the Gaza Strip,” the official said. “They cannot say, ‘It is not us.’”

Israel has made clear that it will not countenance the type of situation that existed before Operation Cast Lead began in December 2009, when there were daily rocket attacks on the western Negev, the official said. If the reports of an agreement to stop rocket firings on Israel were true, it would be an indication that Israel’s deterrence works, and that Hamas realizes that an escalation would not be to its benefit, he said.

The representatives of the Palestinian factions said that while their groups “preserved the right to respond to any Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip,” they also agreed to continue with “previous agreements” – a reference to the unofficial cease-fire that has been in effect since the end of Cast Lead.

“This does not mean that we are stopping the resistance against Israel,” explained Saleh Zeidan of the DFLP. “We are just working on developing coordination between the various groups, while taking into consideration the interests of our people.”

A source close to Hamas strongly denied that the Islamist movement had been involved in recent rocket attacks on Israel. Hamas did not rule out the possibility that elements in Fatah were behind the latest rocket attacks, in an effort to drag the IDF into a confrontation with the movement, the source said.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, phoned Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal last week and warned him that the continued rocket attacks would prompt a massive IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, the source close to Hamas said.

Egypt has also been exerting heavy pressure on the Palestinian groups to stop the rocket attacks on Israel, to avoid another war in the Gaza Strip.

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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