Palestinian factions agree to extend ”calm”
Palestinian factions agreed Thursday to extend a "calm" in place since February in exchange for a halt to Israeli attacks and the release of prisoners, a statement obtained by Reuters said.
"Attendees agreed to maintain the recent calm in exchange for Israel's commitment to stop all forms of attacks and release prisoners," read the text of a declaration drawn up by the Palestinian factions at the close of the talks.
Following the reports from Cairo, Israeli officials said they still expect Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to dismantle armed groups.
"The real test will be the action the Palestinian Authority takes on the ground. As long as these organizations remain armed, I doubt very much that there will be much quiet on the ground," a senior Israeli official said.
The PA and Egypt had asked the armed groups present in Cairo, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to agree to an open-ended period of calm.
"We have an agreement in our hands now from all factions on the 'calm'," Samir Mashharawi, an official from Abbas' Fatah movement, told Reuters earlier. According to him, some factions were still holding out for setting a time limit on the truce, although another official had said he expected the differences to be settled within hours.
Islamic Jihad, the main opponent of an open-ended cease-fire, said that a truce is possible only if Israel meets demands including prisoner releases and Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas. "Islamic Jihad will not accept an open truce and it will have the right to respond to any Israeli attacks if the Israelis do not stick to their commitments," their representative Anwar Abu Taha told Reuters on Thursday.