April 30, 2008 / 11:21 AM / 11 years ago

Palestinian factions agree to truce with Israel: MENA

CAIRO (Reuters) - Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo for talks with Egyptian security officials have agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a truce with Israel starting in the Gaza Strip, state news agency MENA said on Wednesday.

Palestinians carry cooking gas canisters to fill them outside a gas station in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip April 30, 2008. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

“All the Palestinian factions have agreed to the Egyptian proposal on a truce with Israel,” MENA said, citing an unnamed high-level Egyptian official.

The official said the Egyptian proposal included a “comprehensive, reciprocal and simultaneous truce, implemented in a graduated framework starting in the Gaza Strip and then subsequently moving to the West Bank,” MENA added.

“This proposal is a phase of a broader plan that aims at providing an appropriate atmosphere before lifting the blockade and ending the state of Palestinian division,” it said.

Egypt invited 12 Palestinian groups for talks to form a consensus on a proposal for a six-month ceasefire, floated by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas last week.

Although it wants Palestinians to stop firing missiles across the border, Israel has dismissed the offer as a Hamas ploy to gain time to prepare for more fighting.

“We are in favor of the truce, on the condition that it be balanced, reciprocal, equal and comprehensive, to include Gaza and the West Bank as well,” Talal Nagy of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command told reporters on Wednesday.

“We support the truce on that basis that it be reciprocal, simultaneous and start in Gaza and extend to include the West Bank as soon as possible, but this does not mean we will end the resistance to the Israeli occupation,” added Ghazi Hussein of the small group Saiqa.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said on Tuesday it had approved a truce with Israel starting in the Gaza Strip, but reserved the right to respond to Israeli attacks in the West Bank.

A truce between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza would take some pressure off Egypt, a key regional mediator.

Egypt does not want to be viewed as aiding the blockade of Gaza or to have Palestinian militants storm the Egyptian border with the coastal strip, as Hamas did earlier this year, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to cross into Sinai.

Israel pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005 but still controls its borders and has tightened its restrictions since Hamas seized control there last year.

Writing by Aziz El-Kaissouni; Editing by Giles Elgood

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