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Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Palestinian militants won’t observe cease-fire

June 6, 2001

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— Hamas cast doubt Tuesday on how long a fragile cease-fire can last when its spiritual leader said the militant group is not bound by Yasser Arafat's call to end attacks on Israel.

International pressure to keep the truce on track was growing, with CIA Director George Tenet expected to head to the region on Wednesday to promote Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation.

Meanwhile, Israel announced the easing of some restrictions imposed after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in Tel Aviv Friday, killing himself and 20 other people, most of them Israeli teen-agers.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said that borders would be opened to allow Palestinians to return home from Egypt and Jordan, raw materials would be allowed into and out of the Palestinian territories and Palestinian workers could return to their jobs in an industrial zone next to the Erez crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Scattered gunfire and clashes Tuesday injured several people in the West Bank, but marches marking the 34th anniversary of the 1967 Middle East war, when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip, were generally peaceful.

However, late Tuesday, a five-month-old Israeli baby was seriously injured when Palestinians threw rocks at a car in the West Bank. Doctors said the baby had a serious head injury.

Israeli officials acknowledged the relative calm, but said Israel still wants Arafat to arrest those involved in planning suicide bombings and to put an end to anti-Israel incitement.

"No doubt some positive steps have been taken, but I would say, necessary but insufficient," Raanan Gissin, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said.

Arafat called the cease-fire on Saturday, leading Israel to hold off retaliation for Friday night's suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv disco that killed 21 people, including the bomber.

A joint statement issued late Monday in the name of the militant wing of Hamas and Arafat's Fatah group said the cease-fire would be respected. But leaders of Hamas whose support is seen as vital to a successful truce quickly began disputing the idea.

"When we are talking about the so-called cease-fire, this means between two armies," Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' spiritual leader, said. "We are not an army. We are people who defend themselves and work against the aggression."

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