Palestinians offer Israel unlimited ceasefire

Special to World
Thursday, September 18, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority has offered Israel what officials term an unlimited and indefinite ceasefire.

PA officials said the offer was meant to end the Israeli-Palestinian war and establish a so-called national unity government that would include Hamas representatives. They said the PA plans to offer guarantees to maintain such a ceasefire.

"There is a strong Palestinian wish to reach a cease-fire with the Israelis," PA Information Minister Nabil Amr said. "But the only obstacle is Israel, which is committed to the military road."

The proposal was drafted by PA National Security Adviser Brig. Gen. Jibril Rajoub. Officials said Rajoub has relayed the proposal to both Israel and the United States.

After the ceasefire, Rajoub said, Israel and the PA would enter negotiations to reach a final settlement. Rajoub said Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Qurei would also be given a mandate to conduct the talks.

PA officials said Hamas has been urged to suspend suicide attacks in Israel to facilitate efforts for a ceasefire. The officials said Hamas has not formally agreed to the ceasefire proposal, but appeared willing to delay operations against Israel.

[On Wednesday, the Fatah-aligned Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade announced that its forces had killed an Israeli brigadier general who headed development at the military's Engineering Corps. Israel did not respond.]

In August, a ceasefire declared by Palestinian insurgency groups collapsed when Hamas bombed a crowded passenger bus in Jerusalem. Twenty-two people were killed in the suicide attack.

The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has dismissed the PA offer. Israeli officials said the government continues to insist on a PA crackdown on insurgency groups.

"This is not the type of ceasefire which may entice us to change our policy," Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said. "The only way the Palestinians can prove that they really want to have a peaceful solution with Israel is taking up the fight against the Hamas and the [Islamic] Jihad. If they don't do it, we have to do it."

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