Islamic Jihad Calls Halt to Attacks, While Israel Keeps Arafat Under Wraps

Published December 25th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Hopes rose Tuesday that Middle East violence might be easing further, with another Islamic group saying it would end strikes against Israel, but with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat still "confined to quarters" by Israel until he arrests wanted activists. 


Arafat, who missed his traditional midnight mass in Jesus Christ's hometown due to Israel's controversial blockade, is "restricted until he takes action against terrorists," government spokesman Raanan Gissin said. 


"It started before Christmas and will go on afterwards," he said. "We don't want to humiliate him or harm him. But he'll remain confined to quarters, confined to Ramallah, until either he or other people do the job. We're not asking him to do anything he hasn't promised to do." 


Gissin said Israel had given him the names of the two trigger-men from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who assassinated tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi on October 17, and said it will not back down until they are arrested. It is also demanding the arrest of the PFLP's political leader Ahmed Sadat and his deputy. Israel said all the suspects were living in Ramallah, within a kilometre radius of Arafat's West Bank headquarters. 


He said Israel would itself move against the men "only as a last resort" and was giving Arafat the chance to re-assert himself as the leader of the Palestinian people after Israel deemed him "irrelevant" this month for failing to prevent bloody attacks. 


Israel has killed more than 60 Palestinian activists during the 15-month intifada. 


The ban on Arafat's Christmas visit was slammed by the Vatican as "arbitrary," while France said it stained the government's image. It was also slammed in the Israeli press as a "stupid decision." 


Meanwhile, a high-ranking member of Islamic Jihad, the Islamic anti-Israeli group that had been split over Arafat's peace call a week ago, said it would comply with his demand to stop all attacks on Israel. 


Nafez Azzam, a leader from the Gaza town of Rafah, said the decision was taken "in line with Palestinian unity, which stipulates the end of military operations against Israel." 


The group "wants to take care to maintain unity in the Palestinian ranks and that, for this reason, we cannot become a point of tension on the Palestinian stage," he said. He said the decision was taken "in order not to give Israel the pretext to intensify its pressures on the Palestinians and on the Palestinian Authority." 


Jihad's larger Islamic rival Hamas announced Friday it was calling off suicide and mortar attacks against Israel for the sake of "national unity." A member of the commiittee charged with mediating ties between the various Palestinian armed and political factions confirmed that Jihad had taken the decision "to stop all military operations against Israel." 


"The main point of disagreement is the announcement of the decision which Jihad does not want to do publicly or clearly," the official said. In another encouraging sign, the Palestinian leadership agreed to allow parliamentary speaker Ahmed Qorei to continue contacts with Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to find ways of returning to a ceaasefire and looking ahead to political talks. 


In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian police closed three illegal mortar factories, while the Damascus-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said two of its Gaza leaders were also arrested an attack on Israeli troops. (AFP) 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (

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