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No Cease-Fire Signed, says Hamas - 2003-06-25

Senior Palestinian militant leaders are denying reports that they have signed a cease-fire that would have stopped attacks on Israelis for three months.

Senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi said Wednesday night that reports of a cease-fire were "all lies." He said he would have an answer to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' request for a cease-fire in a few days.

Earlier in the day, reports citing Palestinian sources, said three main Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad had signed a cease-fire document in Damascus.

Marwan Barghouti was said to have signed on behalf of the main Palestinian faction Fatah. Mr. Barghouti is currently being held in an Israeli jail while he is being tried on terrorism charges.

Reports of a cease-fire agreement came as Israeli helicopters fired three missiles at two cars near the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on Wednesday, killing a 20-year-old Palestinian woman and a man.

The Israeli military said the attack was aimed at Hamas militants who were on their way to attack a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Reports said more than a dozen people were wounded in the strike.

Israel has frequently targeted Palestinian militants in Gaza, including an attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi two weeks ago.

In a separate incident earlier Wednesday, Israeli troops killed two Hamas militants in a gun battle at an Israeli military checkpoint near the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.

In exchange for a cease-fire, the Palestinian militants have demanded an end to Israel's targeted killings, an end to incursion into Palestinian areas and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has been trying for weeks to bring about a halt to the violence in order to give the so-called 'road map' peace plan a chance.