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Palestinian Truce Takes Hold in Gaza

A truce between the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah appears to be holding in Gaza, despite the killing of a Hamas militant in Khan Younis. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem the truce went into effect after five days of intense fighting.

An Egyptian-mediated truce appears to be holding. Negotiators from Hamas and Fatah reached agreement to stop the fighting that left more than 30 people dead since last Thursday. Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar said the agreement calls for both factions to return to their bases, release hostages and remove roadblocks from Gaza's streets.

"We are demanding the withdrawal of all the militants from the streets as well as obstacles, and the return of all military groups to their origins," said Zahar. "Lastly we are calling on both Hamas and Fatah to commit and respect and fulfill previous agreements."

Previous truces between Hamas and Fatah have not lasted long, with both sides using a lull in the fighting to regroup and rearm.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and in a move sure to be rejected by Hamas he called for the abolition of a large Hamas militia known as the Executive Security Force, which he described as unconstitutional.

Mr. Abbas says he hopes Fatah and Hamas can reach agreement on a unity government, but if that does not happen he says he will call early legislative and presidential elections.

The Palestinian president also condemned a suicide bombing Monday in the Israeli city of Eilat that was carried out by a young Palestinian from the Gaza Strip. Hamas officials called the bombing a legitimate act of resistance against Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces bombed a tunnel on the Gaza-Israel border they say was going to be used by Palestinian militants to attack Israel. Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza last November.

Aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israeli newspapers that Israel's military will not re-enter the Gaza Strip, but will focus on strengthening security along Israel's border with Egypt's Sinai desert. Israeli authorities say the suicide bomber who attacked Eilat traveled from Gaza into Egypt and then crossed into Israel.