Israeli Troops Withdraw From Ramallah; Hamas Mulls Cessation of Suicide Attacks
On Thursday morning, the Israel army began withdrawing from the A-Tira neighborhood in western Ramallah. Occupation troops are also withdrawing from nearby Beitunya. The troops continue to hold positions in the northern suburb of El-Bireh, with tanks stationed approximately 300 meters from the offices of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Israel Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel was prepared to pull out of West Bank positions in Jenin and Nablus if the Palestinians cracked down against “terrorists.” He described both areas as the centers of "many of the terrorist acts."
"If they [Palestinians] will take it over, we shall immediately withdraw our forces," Peres said in Jerusalem, where he met with delegates from the European Union.
In another development, Palestinian sources said that Israeli special forces operated overnight in the Palestinian village of Karwat Bani Zeid, northwest of Ramallah. The village is within Palestinian Authority-controlled area.
The Israeli forces arrested six suspects, Hamas members among them, according to these Palestinian sources.
In another development, certain sources reported that the Islamic Hamas group has agreed to halt suicide attacks against Israel following Arafat’s appeal earlier this week. Hassan Youssef, a prominent Hamas leader in the West Bank, said on Wednesday the group was considering suspending suicide attacks. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, denied the claims. He did, however, reveal that the group has been holding internal discussions on the cease-fire issue. A Hamas official in Damascus, Khaled Mashaal, also denied the reports, saying that “the organization would continue its campaign against the Zionist occupation.”
The Palestinian Authority has been continuing its crackdown against the Islamic groups, closing down Hamas-related offices. The Palestinian security forces announced Wednesday that it had arrested 15 policemen for violating President Arafat's orders to end armed actions against Israelis. Four of those detained were involved in Gaza mortar attacks.
Meanwhile, seven people were wounded in a gun battle between Hamas members and Palestinian security forces who tried to arrest one of the movement's leaders on Thursday. Shooting erupted in the Gaza Strip after dozens of Hamas activists surrounded the home of Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi when Palestinian police arrived to detain him following U.S. and Israeli demands. (Albawaba.com)
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