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Hamas, Islamic Jihad Declare Ceasefire


The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have declared a three-month ceasefire in attacks on Israelis effective immediately.

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi says military operations will be halted against what he called "the Zionist enemy."

Hamas and Islamic Jihad decided to go ahead with the announcement without the participation of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, which was apparently divided over the terms of the truce.

The ceasefire says the two groups will halt all attacks against Israelis for three months, effective immediately. But it demands Israel also stop its targeted killings of militants, ease restrictions on Palestinians, and release Palestinian prisoners.

Israel has not said it would abide by the militants' terms, but it is believed visiting National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice urged restraint when she met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The ceasefire was announced despite earlier statements from senior Palestinian figures that it would be delayed until Monday, while final wording of the ceasefire document were worked out.

Israeli media reports Israeli troops will begin pulling out of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun by Monday.

The general outline of the Israeli pullout was agreed to Friday in a meeting between Palestinian officials and Israel's coordinator in the occupied territories.

Israeli military sources are quoted as saying that Israeli troops will remain in place around Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip after the pullout.

Israel Radio reports the Palestinian Authority has pledged to fight terrorism, but did not make an explicit commitment to dismantle the terror infrastructure as Israel has wanted.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon provided Ms. Rice met with details of the security transfer. He also spelled out the measures Israel will take to ease restrictions on Palestinians.

Ms. Rice met Saturday with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

The American official issued invitations to come to the White House to both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon.

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