Hamas-Fatah agree to immediate ceasefire

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ISLAMIC Jihad official Da’ud Shihab in a press conference in Gaza on Sunday, held by the Higher Follow-Up Committee of the National and Islamic Forces, announced ‘an immediate ceasefire’ between Fatah and Hamas.

He read out the following statement:

‘In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. ‘And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah stretches out for you, and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for ye were enemies and he joined your hearts in love, so that by his grace, ye became brethren.

‘O masses of our steadfast people, O masses of our Arab and Islamic nation;

‘Under these difficult and sensitive circumstances in our Palestinian arena and in light of the latest developments, which required a courageous, decisive national stance to shun division and halt strife and discord that only gladdens the enemy and saddens every free and honourable person, the factions and the National and Islamic Forces called for a meeting with the brethren in Fatah and Hamas.

‘This was in order to remind both movements of the danger of the escalating domestic situation as a result of the differences of opinion, and in order to spare our people further pain and suffering if, God forbid, the struggle between them were to continue.

‘We sensed a great willingness on all sides to correct and direct our course towards dialogue rather than discord, division, and conflict, and to calm the situation on the street.

‘An agreement has been reached on the following points:

‘1. Imposing an immediate ceasefire.

‘2. Ending all armed manifestations, withdrawing fighters from the streets, and the restoring of the security apparatuses to their positions prior to the events.

‘3. Halting the media campaigns and all forms of incitement, including incitement in the field.

‘4. Halting all protests and parades now, as they may cause friction.

‘5. Releasing the kidnapped individuals from both parties that are related to the latest events.

‘6. Calling for an urgent meeting of the joint office of Fatah and Hamas, with the participation of some forces to ensure the meeting’s success.

‘7. Calling for a meeting of the Higher Follow-Up Committee in line with what has been agreed upon and in order to work towards formulating a position that will hasten the start of a national dialogue for the formation a national unity government.

‘8. Forming an independent board of inquiry to investigate the events that transpired since the crossing incident and those that followed, bringing those responsible to justice, and announcing the results.

‘This agreement includes all the West Bank and Gaza Strip governorates.

‘Any party that violates this agreement will be held accountable.

‘The National and Islamic Forces’ Higher Follow-Up Committee.’

A fragile ceasefire has now taken effect between Hamas and Fatah after days of heavy fighting pushed the Gaza Strip to the brink of civil war.

Hamas and Fatah agreed on a ceasefire late on Sunday.

There were sporadic exchanges of fire overnight, including an incident in which two members of a Hamas-led police force were wounded moments after the agreement was announced.

Previous deals to end internal fighting this year have fallen apart.

Forces loyal to Hamas and Fatah fought street and rooftop gun battles across Gaza on Sunday.

Fighters also fired mortars at President Mahmud Abbas’s offices while his forces seized two Hamas ministries. Abbas was not in Gaza at the time.

At least three people were killed and 20 wounded.

Ibrahim Abu Najja, head of a high-level committee that includes all the groups, commented: ‘There is an agreement between all armed Palestinian groups for a ceasefire and to end the violence.’

The development was confirmed by Ismail Radwan, Hamas spokesman, who said that the ceasefire pact stipulates that ‘armed men must stop circulating on the streets’.

Just before the news of the truce broke, a Fatah spokesman said a colonel in the Palestinian national security service belonging to Fatah was kidnapped and killed on Sunday in the Gaza Strip by Hamas fighters.

Adnan Rhami, 40, was abducted with two bodyguards while driving in the Jabaliya camp, after which the masked kidnappers shot him and dumped his body near a hospital, the spokesman said.

It is not known what happened to the bodyguards.

The incident came during a day of violent clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters after Abbas called for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Earlier on Sunday, a 19-year-old Palestinian woman was killed after supporters of Abbas’s Fatah faction and Hamas clashed outside the presidential compound in Gaza City.

The death was the first civilian casualty since Abbas said the day before he was calling elections to try to end months of impasse during Hamas’s rule.

The fighting came after the ruling Hamas party accused Fatah of trying to kill the Palestinian foreign minister after shots were earlier fired at his convoy in Gaza City.

Mahmoud al-Zahar was unharmed in the attack.

The government rejects the call for legislative elections as they are unconstitutional and create confusion, said Ismail Haniya, The Palestinian Prime Minister.

Despite the violence, Abbas has indicated he is determined to push ahead with his plan to dissolve the government and hold early elections.

Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, said Hamas would boycott the polls and accused the president of trying to topple the government illegally.

Haniya told a cabinet meeting that the call for early elections was ‘unconstitutional’ and could create further disorder in the Palestinian territories.

‘The government rejects the call for legislative elections as they are unconstitutional and create confusion,’ he said.

Earlier on Sunday, in an attack blamed on Hamas, dozens of gunmen raided a presidential guard training camp, killing a member of the elite force.

Palestinian presidential security sources said dozens of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades members stormed the training centre in Shaikh Ijleen district, south Gaza City, firing mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, however, denied responsibility for the attack.