Hamas rebuffs Cairo on ceasefire with Israel

Special to World
Friday, January 24, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Islamic opposition movement has refused an Egyptian plan for a ceasefire with Israel.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives said their organizations have rejected any suspension of the more than two-year war with Israel. They said Hamas has insisted on continuing attacks on Israelis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

On Friday, Hamas fired three Kassem-3 short-range missiles from the Gaza Strip. The missiles landed in the Israeli city of Sderot and no casualties were reported.

The Palestinian missile attack took place hours after Israeli attack helicopters fired missiles at a Gaza City metal workshop said to have been producing mortars and missiles. Palestinian sources said 11 missiles were fired and destroyed a five-storey building.

In the West Bank, three Israeli soldiers were killed in a Palestinian ambush near Hebron. Both Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility. Al Aqsa is headed by the ruling Fatah movement.

Military sources said the Palestinian attackers took the weapons from two of the soldiers during the attack on late Thursday. The soldiers came from an elite unit that was patrolling the area south of Hebron.

Twelve Palestinian groups were scheduled to begin the reconciliation dialogue in Cairo on Friday. Palestinian sources said this would constitute the largest meeting of Palestinian factions in 20 years.

On Thursday, Al Aqsa said it would ignore an Egyptian plan for a year-long ceasefire with Israel. The group said it would renew suicide missions in Israel.

"We will not abide by any agreement that calls for ending the uprising or the resistance and we will continue with our martyrdom operations because the Palestinian people have chosen the path of resistance," Al Aqsa said in a statement.

In a related development, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was said to have pledged to his key ministers that he would consider a proposal to deport Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat after the U.S.-led war against Iraq. The magazine said Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have pressured Sharon to expel Arafat immediately.

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