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Report: Egypt, Militants Reach Deal

JERUSALEM — Egypt has reached agreements with Hamas and Islamic Jihad on their activities in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement, according to a report this week in the London-based Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

Senior members of Islamic Jihad met last weekend with Egyptian diplomats at Cairo’s representation in Gaza to move ahead with the Egyptian post-disengagement initiative, the report said.

Egypt is conducting simultaneous talks in Cairo with Hamas and Islamic Jihad second-tier officials, who are based Syria and Lebanon, and in Gaza with their local grass-roots leaders. The talks are part of an Egyptian effort to fill the vacuum left by the breakdown of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks after the outbreak of Palestinian violence.

An agreement apparently has been reached by all Palestinian organizations to stop attacks against Israelis in Gaza, including the firing of Qassam missiles. They also have agreed that the Palestinian Authority will conduct final status talks with Israel.

A Palestinian source, quoted Sunday by The Associated Press, said Hamas and Islamic Jihad had accepted a plan formulated by Marwan Barghouti, the West Bank Fatah leader currently imprisoned in Israel for terrorist activities. According to the plan, violence will cease in Gaza after disengagement, and the organizations will sell their weapons to the P.A. within three months of Israel’s withdrawal.

Islamic Jihad leader Khader Khabib, who met with the Egyptians in Gaza, confirmed the existence of a “verbal agreement” under which Egypt “promised that Israel would withdraw from the entire Gaza Strip, the siege and the quarantine against the Palestinian people would end and the Israeli army would not invade the Gaza Strip and would not assassinate Palestinians.”

At the end of the month, a delegation of Fatah members will arrive in Cairo to wrap up initial talks with the three main groups active in the Gaza Strip. Next month, the representatives of all the organizations will meet in Cairo to complete talks.

Egypt has repeatedly made clear that after Israel’s withdrawal, it will not take responsibility for security in Gaza, but merely will conduct talks and train Palestinian forces.

Despite apparent progress in Egyptian-sponsored talks among the Palestinian groups, it remains unclear how Israel will react to Egyptian demands. One of the central demands is that Israel allow Gaza to keep its airports and seaports open, raising Israeli concerns about weapons importing. Another demand is that Palestinians be allowed to continue working in Israel. The Egyptians also are asking Israel that Palestinians be allowed to supervise the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, and that there be freedom of passage between Gaza and the West Bank.

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