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Palestinian Prime Minister to Meet with Islamic Jihad Leaders in Gaza - 2003-07-04


Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is in Gaza, where he is expected to meet with Islamic Jihad leaders Friday, in an effort to shore up a five-day-old, but still fragile cease-fire. At the same time, Israel is reported drawing up a list of Palestinian prisoners to be released, possibly by next week.

Prime Minister Abbas wants to convince Islamic Jihad militants to stay on board with the truce, and he would like to also convince smaller, splinter groups to join the cease-fire, as well.

Three main Palestinian factions, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah, agreed last Sunday to halt attacks against Israelis for the next three months.

But Islamic Jihad and Hamas have warned that, unless Israel releases the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, the truce could break down. Israel has released several dozen Palestinian prisoners who had been detained in a security sweep in the West Bank city of Hebron a few weeks ago. However, Islamic Jihad has called the prisoner releases cosmetic.

Israel is reported holding more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners. According to Israeli media, the security service, Shin Bet, is drawing up a list of prisoners to be released, and will present the names to the Cabinet on Sunday.

Palestinian Security Chief Mohammed Dahlan has called on Israel to free 416 prisoners, who, he said, had already served long sentences, and had been instrumental in bringing about the current cease-fire.

Since the truce went into effect, there have been sporadic shootings, grenade and rocket attacks against Israeli sites, carried out by militants who have refused to adhere to the truce.

Palestinian police this past week arrested several militants believed responsible for some of the attacks, a move that has pleased Israel, but has angered some Palestinians, prompting a loud protest demonstration in Gaza late Thursday.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is said to be angry at his army chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon, for saying that Israel had emerged victorious in the almost three-year-long conflict with the Palestinians. On Friday, the Israeli newspaper Maariv quoted advisers to Mr. Mofaz as saying General Yaalon's comments were irresponsible.

Another Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, published an opinion poll Friday indicating that only 24 percent of Israelis questioned believe that Israel has won the conflict with the Palestinians. The poll shows that 33 percent of those questioned said the Palestinians emerged victorious, while 35 percent said neither side has won.

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