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Arafat Expects Announcement of Militant Cease-Fire 'Soon' - 2003-06-26

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat says he expects an official announcement on an agreement by Palestinian militants to suspend attacks on Israelis.

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Mr. Arafat said the deal is not yet finalized, but that he expects it will be soon.

The Palestinian militant groups that have been holding talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on declaring a cease-fire said earlier that an agreement is not imminent.

But reports persist that an agreement has been finalized, and that all that remains is to work out the final wording of a formal document.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas says Wednesday's Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip did not help the situation.

Israeli troops killed two Hamas militants in Gaza, and two other Palestinians died in an Israeli helicopter strike elsewhere in the area. Israel says the missile strike was aimed at Hamas militants, who were about to attack a Jewish settlement.

Hamas also criticized President Bush for saying Wednesday that groups like Hamas must be completely disbanded, before there will be peace in the region. Hamas called the remark provocative.

Meanwhile, one Israeli was killed in a shooting attack in the village Baka al-Garbiyeh, which straddles the, so-called "Green Line" that separates the West Bank and Israel.

In the incident, a Palestinian gunman walked up to a commercial vehicle and opened fire, killing one of the occupants. A bodyguard inside the van returned fire, wounding the 15-year-old gunman, who was later arrested by Israeli police.