Jihad leader Khaled al-Batch: The goal is ending occupation.
By YAAKOV KATZ, AP
A delegation of the Islamic Jihad negotiating with the Egyptian government will not agree to halt attacks on Israel, a leader of the extremist organization said Tuesday.
The delegation began talks Tuesday with Egypt's chief of intelligence, Omar Suleiman, who is expected to press Islamic Jihad to end its attacks on Israelis in order to revive the peace process. Last month, a Jihad suicide bomber killed nine people in an attack on a falafel stand in Tel Aviv.
The senior-level Jihad delegation that arrived in Cairo on Monday night is led by Syria-based Ramadan Shallah, said Khaled al-Batch, one of the group's leaders, in a telephone interview from Gaza.
Al-Batch dismissed the idea that Jihad would cease attacks so long as Israel continued to occupy Palestinian territories and assassinate Jihad leaders. "This issue is not on the table for discussion," he told The Associated Press.
"The goal is ending occupation and halting the attacks on the Palestinians," he said.
Palestinian groups, especially the Al-Quds Brigades - Islamic Jihad's military wing - could not have their "hands tied on the issue of Israeli aggression," he added.
It wasn't immediately possible to reach members of the Jihad delegation in Cairo, and Egyptian intelligence does not discuss this type of issues with the media.
Last week, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered the army to step up operations in northern Samaria against the Islamic Jihad - which has been behind recent suicide attacks in Israel - as well as the anti-Kassam operation in Gaza.
Security officials told Mofaz that Fatah had stepped up its terror activity and was currently behind 50 percent of recent attacks.
Mofaz also ordered an extension of the closure on the West Bank until after Independence Day on Wednesday.
'The only way to stop Palestinian terror is to continue to invest in arrest operations in the West Bank,' a security official said.
A senior military officer said Israel wanted to avoid a ground operation in Gaza but would initiate one if the Palestinians continued to increase their capabilities in a 'significant way.' He cited the introduction of Katyusha rockets as a possible reason for an extensive military action.
Last month, Islamic Jihad fired a Katyusha into southern Israel for the first time. That rocket landed without causing damage, but it had longer range and was more powerful than the primitive Kassam rockets usually fired by Palestinians.
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