Palestinian Militants spurn Egypt initiative to halt all attacks against Israelis

Gulf Daily News


Palestinian militants yesterday rebuffed fresh overtures from Egyptian mediators to halt all attacks against Israelis as part of a proposed ceasefire aimed at reviving a US-backed "road map" to peace.

Underlining the obstacles to new diplomatic efforts, violence flared in the Gaza Strip. Witnesses said Israeli troops shot dead a 16-year-old boy in a refugee camp. Military sources said militants had tried to blow up a nearby border post.

Palestinian officials said the Egyptians had pledges from the United States that it would pressure its ally Israel to pull back troops from Palestinian cities in return for a complete truce by groups that have led a suicide-bombing campaign.

But Islamic Jihad official Mohammed Al Hindi said the group opposed the proposals after a second day of talks in Gaza with the Egyptians, who failed to secure a truce at Cairo talks this month. The envoys were to leave Gaza for Egypt today. "The position of Islamic Jihad is clear and it has remained unchanged," Al Hindi said. Islamic Jihad and Hamas are sworn to Israel's destruction.

In Gaza, Islamic Jihad and Hamas said they would continue to discuss ceasefire options despite their rejection of the current proposal being tabled by Egyptian envoys.

"We have reiterated the same position we adopted in Cairo," senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz Al Rantissi said.

As the talks continued, the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip became the scene of fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants after bombs caused serious damage to an Israeli watchtower in the area.

Palestinians said the 16-year-old killed by soldiers was unarmed and apparently hit by random fire.