Palestinian Groups Have Different Take On 'Ceasefire'

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Confusion persisted Tuesday about the status and nature of a Palestinian Authority-declared "ceasefire," with leaders of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction defining it as an end to "Israeli occupation" but not a halt to violence, while other Palestinian factions rejected the call altogether.

Israeli officials said they had seen little evidence of attempts to end the violence or to stop anti-Israeli incitement in the Palestinian media.

Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire almost two weeks ago and said it would not engage in initiated military actions against the PA, in line with the recommendations of a U.S.-sponsored report into the causes for the trouble.

Arafat, who initially scorned the unilateral declaration as a propaganda trick, eventually agreed to call for a ceasefire over the weekend, under severe international pressure following a suicide bombing that killed 20 young Israelis and wounded scores more.

An Israeli army spokesman said on Tuesday there had been a "slight decrease" in Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets during the last two days.

Capt. Jacob Dallal said Palestinian gunmen continued to fire on civilians over the past 24 hours. Apart from a fierce gun battle in the Gaza Strip Monday, there had also been other shootings and mortar attacks.

Leaders of Fatah gave their own interpretation of a ceasefire through the media on Tuesday, while several Palestinian factions refused to agree to the ceasefire call.

Hamas, which claimed credit for carrying out the weekend suicide attack, denied earlier reports that it had joined Arafat's declared truce with Israel.

"Our policy is to continue the intifada (uprising) and resistance," senior Hamas official, Mahmoud al-Zahhar, was quoted as saying. "We are not changing our policy. Resistance means to attack the Israelis everywhere by all means."

Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was also quoted as saying "our Palestinian people are not going to kneel down, will not surrender and will continue in this intifada."

Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also refused to back the call for a ceasefire.

Within Arafat's own Fatah faction, two prominent West Bank leaders gave differing versions of how they envisaged a ceasefire.

Hussein El-Sheikh said in a radio interview Fatah was honoring the declaration, which he described as "a general ceasefire" and said they hoped the Israeli government "will remove the blockades [on Palestinian cities] and end the attacks on the Palestinian people."

But the Palestinians had to defend themselves against "attacks," which he said included any construction work whatsoever in Israeli settlements located in disputed territories.

"Building has to stop in all the settlements. Both sides have to honor the cease-fire," El-Sheikh said.

Marwan Barghouti, another Fatah leader in the disputed West Bank, said that for the Palestinians a ceasefire meant to put an end to what he called "the Israeli occupation."

"The occupation represents the biggest aggressive attacks against the Palestinians. So when they are talking about the cease-fire, this means for the Palestinians to see the Israeli soldiers on the '67 borders not in Ramallah or Nablus or Gaza or Jerusalem," Barghouti said.

"I'm talking about the continuing of the Palestinian resistance - to continue the demonstrations, to continue throwing stones, to continue the armed resistance in the occupied territories against the Israelis," he said.

The 1967 borders Barghouti referred to were the borders in place between Israel and the Jordanian-controlled West Bank before the Six Day War.

The Palestinians want Israel to withdraw at least to those lines, while Israel challenges the view that it is obliged by international law to do so.


The U.S.-sponsored Mitchell Report called for an immediate halt to all violence and incitement as a first step toward returning the sides to diplomatic negotiations.

Itamar Marcus, director of the Palestinian Media Watch watchdog group, said Tuesday that while the PA was not inciting the masses to take to the streets, it was still intent on de-legitimizing the Jewish state.

Marcus said the PA media disseminated two types of incitement. The first, which aims to de-legitimize Israel, is continuing. The second, which is aimed at encouraging Palestinians to riot by showing hours of footage of rioting has been suspended.

The first type, he said, was "much more dangerous," in that it lays the foundation that keeps hatred alive.

Marcus cited a television program broadcast on Tuesday, when a Palestinian teacher told his students that Israeli "criminal oppressive forces" had entered the coastal city of Ashkelon in 1947, "and they are there until today."

"Ashkelon will return to its owners and the [former Palestinian] residents of Ashkelon will return to their place," he continued. "It is their heritage and they will throw the foreigners to wherever they'll throw them."

Another example, Marcus said, was a newspaper article Monday claiming Israeli helicopters had dropped "suspicious objects" in PA-controlled areas and warning people not to approach them.

Such reports created fear and hatred for Israelis, Marcus said.

The Israeli army spokesman said in reaction to the claim: "The Palestinians are constantly coming up with various ridiculous claims, the latest of which that Israeli Air Force dropped candy to poison Palestinians.

"This is part of an overall effort to incite Palestinian population against Israel. The PA or whoever issues such reports should be thoroughly questioned and held accountable for what they say."