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Islamic Jihad Waffles on Attacks Against Israelis

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The Islamic JIhad fundamentalist movement has announced that it opposes any agreement with the Palestinian Authority aimed at curtailing the group’s attacks on Israelis and at getting the militants to turn over their weapons to the Palestinian police.

Sunday’s announcement by the group stood in sharp contradiction to a statement made Saturday by the spiritual leader of Islamic Jihad, Abdullah Al-Shami, who was released by Palestinian police over the weekend.

Shami said his group was ready to stop temporarily its attacks against Israelis.

Shami was arrested by Palestinian authorities in January after two members of his group carried out a double suicide attack near Beit Lid in Israel, killing at least 21 Israelis and wounding 60 others.

Shami, noting that his statement on Saturday represented a shift in his position, said there was a need for the Palestinian Authority and its fundamentalist opposition to enter into dialogue.

The self-rule government of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat began holding discussions a month ago with the Islamic Jihad and with the larger Hamas fundamentalist movement in an effort to ease tensions in the Gaza Strip.

But the Islamic Jihad’s Damascus-based leader, Fathi al-Shuqaqi, said Sunday that no understanding had been reached with the Palestinian Authority, and that the group would never agree to stop terror attacks against Israelis.

Islamic Jihad has demanded that the Palestinian Authority release all fundamentalist activists still held in detention, suspend the military court it established recently to prosecute activists and stop mass arrests.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials in Gaza said they would begin confiscating unlicensed weapons.

The announcement came after a deadline issued by the Palestinian Authority for registering the weapons expired Sunday. The deadline was announced last month, amid pressure on the Palestinian Authority to crack down on extremists.

Freih Abu Medein, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of judicial affairs, said police would not carry out arbitrary searches of people’s homes, adding that only those Palestinians carrying unregistered arms in public would be prosecuted.

Relatedly, Israel Radio reported that Palestinian police tracked down a gang in Rafah, in southern Gaza, which had 1,500 forged Israeli identity cards in its possession.

The cards, which have been used in the past by terrorists as a means for entering Israel, were turned over to Israeli authorities.

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