GAZA CITY Ñ Israel has guaranteed that it will honor any
Palestinian ceasefire accord.
Palestinian sources said the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
relayed assurances that the Israeli military would be restrained from major
operations or strikes against insurgents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The sources said the assurances were relayed to the United States, which has
tried to arrange for an end to the more than three-year-old
The Israeli government assured the Bush administration that the Jewish
state would not target the leadership of Palestinian insurgency groups, the
sources said. But the Israeli assurance was said to have been based on an
end to major Palestinian attacks.
On Thursday, Israeli special operations forces killed four Palestinians
during a clash in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The Israeli
operation in Nablus and the neighboring refugee camp of Balata was meant to
foil plans to launch suicide attacks in the Jewish state. Two
would-be suicide bombers were also said to have been captured.
Egypt has launched an effort to win agreement from 12 Palestinian groups
to honor a ceasefire with Israel. An Egyptian security delegation met in
Gaza City with leaders of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Popular Front for
the Liberation of Palestine in what was termed an effort to continue efforts
begun in Cairo earlier this month.
The head of the Egyptian delegation, Gen. Mustafa Bahiri, said the
Israeli pledge to honor the ceasefire has been confirmed by the United
States. Bahiri said his superior, Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar
Suleiman, plans to arrive in Ramallah next week to complete preparations for
a ceasefire with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
But the sources said the Israeli pledge and the U.S. guarantee to honor
the ceasefire did not result in agreement by Palestinian insurgency groups.
They said Hamas and Jihad have raised other terms for a ceasefire.
The Islamic terms include the Israeli withdrawal from territories in the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip deployed by Israeli military forces since the
Israeli-Palestinian war began in September 2000. Other conditions demand an
end to Israeli raids of Palestinian communities, the removal of roadblocks
and the demolition of unlicensed Palestinian buildings.
"There is a Palestinian consensus that there will not be a ceasefire
unless there is a clear political price," Jihad spokesman Mohammed Hindi