Hamas, Islamic Jihad say they want to keep truce

Groups wary of full-blown confrontation with Israel; defense officials: IAF likely to continue strikes on Hamas, Islamic Jihad.

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December 10, 2011 17:10
2 minute read.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal [file]

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Al Hams/Handout)

 
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Hamas is keen to preserve the state of “calm” and does not like the idea that other Palestinian groups are attacking Israel, Hamas officials said over the weekend.

Islamic Jihad leaders also expressed their readiness to avoid an all-out confrontation with Israel.

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Hamas is concerned that an upsurge in violence would foil plans to hold mass rallies next week marking the 24th anniversary of its founding.

News of the interest in the truce came after a weekend of rocket attacks on Israel and air force strikes on the Gaza Strip, started by the IAF bombing on Thursday of a terrorist cell that was planning an attack against Israel from Sinai.

Hamas is also worried that the renewed rocket attacks on Israel could torpedo the implementation of the second phase of the prisoner-exchange agreement that saw the release of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in October. The second phase of the prisoner swap deal calls for the release of 550 Palestinians from Israeli prisons by December 18.

Islamic Jihad also expressed its desire to avoid further escalation.

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Khader Habib, a senior Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip, said his group has reached agreement with Hamas to honor the unofficial truce with Israel.

Habib said that the decision was taken so as not to give Israel an excuse to “carry out its aggressive schemes against the Gaza Strip.”

“No Palestinian group has the right to separately engage in conflict with the occupation,” Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said. “We sent a clear message to the Palestinian resistance groups that there’s no choice but to unite and work together.”

Bardaweel said Hamas wants to maintain the state of calm to avoid a further escalation in the Gaza Strip.

He added that Egypt and “some UN parties” were playing a big role in restoring calm to the Strip following the latest tensions.

Another Hamas official said that his movement has warned other Palestinian groups against carrying out “operations that could lead to an explosion that no party wants now.”

In a related development, the Palestinian Authority announced on Saturday that it would ask the international community to dispatch observers to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to “document Israeli human rights violations.”

Nimer Hammad, political adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the observers were needed to defend Palestinian civilians.

On Saturday morning, Palestinian terrorists fired four rockets into Israel, raising the number fired since Thursday to close to 20.

The IAF bombed a number of targets in Gaza over the weekend, including a weapons cache, causing secondary explosions that sent shrapnel into a nearby house killing one civilian and wounding 13 others, mostly women and children.

The IDF said harm to civilians was regrettable but placed the blame on Hamas, which was embedding its terrorist bases within civilian infrastructure.

On Friday, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz summoned the IDF brass to discuss a response to the spike in rocket attacks.

Defense officials said that while a ground offensive was always a possibility, Israel was likely to continue striking at Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets from the air.

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