More groups reject Abbas call to demilitarize


More groups reject Abbas call to demilitarize intifada

– PLO chief cites progress in talks despite rebuff from Al-Aqsa, Islamic Jihad

The Daily Star

17 December 2004


A call by PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas for Palestinians to end the armed intifada risked alienating more hard-liners and public opinion on Thursday less than a month before presidential elections which he looks certain to win.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades on Thursday joined Hamas and its smaller rival Islamic Jihad in rejecting Abbas’s calls to disarm.

“Calls by some Palestinians to stop the armed uprising are totally rejected. … These statements are not binding on us,” Al-Aqsa said,while also claiming joint responsibility for an attack Wednesday on a Jewish settlement in Gaza.

Al-Aqsa’s statement echoed the stance of the largest militant faction, Hamas.

In an interview on Tuesday with pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Abbas said “the use of weapons is harmful and it should stop.”

In spite of the blunt rejection from the main Palestinian groups, he voiced optimism Wednesday that Palestinian hard-liners would respond to his call to lay down weapons even as their representatives rebuffed his appeal.

“There has been progress in the negotiations with Palestinian factions about ending the miniaturization of the intifada,” Abbas said after arriving in Qatar from Saudi Arabia on the latest stop of a Gulf tour to drum up support for the peace process.

“Intensive discussions are under way with (Hamas)and others with a view to reaching an agreement to calm down the situation,” said Abbas.

“I am hopeful about the position of the Palestinian factions and I hope we will reach an agreement before, or perhaps after, the elections.”

Despite his optimism, Abbas’ bid to restore internal order faces serious challenges from militants, including some from his own party.

A top Islamic Jihad official said it was not the right time to give up arms.

“Resistance factions have the right to keep their arms as long as occupation exists and as long as Zionist aggression continues on Palestinian land,” Mohammed al-Hindi said.

The proposal by Abbas to demilitarize the intifada has not only been

snubbed by radical groups but is also unpopular with the Palestinian public, according to a poll that was published Thursday.

Over 65 percent of those surveyed by Bir Zeit university in the West Bank said they were opposed to the disarmament of the Palestinian groups, while only 28 percent of those polled said they backed the move.

Mounting violence in Gaza, meanwhile, has further dampened hopes of a peace breakthrough. Three Palestinian militants were killed in the

southern Gaza Strip late Wednesday after attacking an Israeli Army position and an army convoy, according to a revised toll on Thursday that came from

medical sources.

Despite ongoing violence, preparations are still under way for the presidential elections next month.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize partly for his Middle East peace efforts, said Wednesday he would head an observer mission to monitor the elections.

Carter, who helped broker the 1979 Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel, said his Carter Center had been invited by Palestinian leaders to monitor the poll and expressed optimism about the elections.

“You have to be optimistic. I have the hope and expectation that the elections will be honest, fair, free and safe,” he said in an interview.

Over 600 foreign observers, including delegations from the EU and Russia, are expected to monitor the vote.

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