Saturday, December 31, 2005

Palestinian militants say truce ends at midnight


Militant Palestiniain factions said on Saturday that as of New Year's Day they would no longer be bound by a truce that has brought the most peaceful spell since the start of the five-year-old uprising.

Meanwhile, Israel Air Force fire killed two Palestinians in the no-go area of the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday night, according to Palestinian security sources.

Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said two were killed and three wounded when the IAF carried out a strike in the area where Palestinians have banned from approaching the border since Sunday, to keep militants from firing rockets at Israel. The IDF began enforcing the ban on Wednesday.

IDF sources said the strike targeted Palestinians preparing to fire a rocket from the evacuated settlement of Elei Sinai. The air force fired at the Palestinians and identified a hit, the military said. Relatives identified the dead as Motaz Hamdouna, 26, and Hamza Hamdouna, 22.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said they would no longer be committed to following "a period of calm" despite the efforts of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas to preserve a ceasefire he sighed with Israel last February during a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

An increase in violence since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in September has kept peacemaking on hold, but the lull has brought relief on both sides of the front line.

However, it is unclear how different conditions will actually be on Sunday morning. According to IDF sources, Islamic Jihad hadn't abided by the agreement even when it was in effect - this year, 24 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks by the Jihad network in the West Bank, including one in a suicide bombing on Thursday described as revenge for IDF attacks.

A big resurgence of violence could be an added threat to a January 25 election, already endangered by growing disorder.

The armed groups say the truce cost them more than they gained because Israel continued raids and did not free all Palestinian prisoners, as they had demanded. Israel said its raids were to stop militants who were planning attacks.