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Palestinians Use Truce to Regroup

July 5, 2005
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In March, during a gathering of representatives of 13 Palestinian factions in Cairo, they agreed to a period of calm until the end of the year. The period of calm was contingent on Israel stopping all forms of “aggression” and releasing Palestinian prisoners. Since then, there has been relative peace on the ground. The Palestinian factions, at the request of Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), have cooperated in the de facto truce. In response, Israel has ceased large-scale operations in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza.

However, Palestinian representatives in Cairo did not sanction an end to “armed resistance” or the dismantling of armed factions as demanded by Israel.

“This calm is not a gift to the occupation. We will work on and prepare ourselves. Disbanding the armed wing of Hamas is absolutely out of the question,” said Abu Ubada, spokesman for the Ezzedin Al-Qassam Brigade. Abu Ubada went on to emphasize that the faction agreed to an extended informal truce, not out of love for Israel but “to put Palestinian affairs in order and to ensure a period of calm conducive to holding elections.” On Palestinian disarmament, he said that their rifles are aimed at the “occupiers.” He added, “Weapons that have to be collected up will be used to unleash chaos.”

An Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade spokesman said its members would become part of the PA security forces without sacrificing the “resistance.” “A large number of our fighters already belong to the security services. Joining the security services does not at all signify the end of resistance against the occupation,” said the spokesman, calling himself Abu Qussay. He warned Israel that if they violate the period of calm, “we are ready to fight back at any moment…Weapons will remain in the hands of the resistance, and we will direct them only against the Israeli enemy.”

Abu Al-Walid, a leader of the Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said they would use the lull to “prepare our military apparatus to confront any eventuality.” He went on to explain that support for the informal cease-fire depends on Israel withdrawing from Gaza, releasing more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and ending “aggression.”

“We will no longer stick to this calm if Israel does not keep its side before the end of the year,” Al-Walid said. “In the meantime, we will retaliate against any Israeli violation.”

Editor’s note:  Militant Islamic groups have vowed to use their strengthened position in Gaza to attack Israeli positions once the Israeli disengagement takes place.  Instead of responding in peace, they plan to respond with aggression.

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