Beirut, July 13 (Reuters): Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad warned today they would end a truce with Israel if the Palestinian Authority went ahead with what they called a campaign to disarm them.
The groups last month halted attacks on Israel as part of a US-backed peace plan, which has also seen Israeli troops withdraw from some Palestinian areas and transfer security control to Palestinian Authority forces. “The Palestinian security forces decided to start a campaign aimed to disarm the resistance...We warn that such an act...will make us think seriously of going back on our initiative of halting the military attacks (against Israel),” the two groups said in a joint statement.
An Islamic Jihad official said Palestinian security forces in Gaza were gearing up for what appeared to be an attempt to disarm them, and said the groups could resume suicide bombings in response. “Preparations have begun on the ground, the Palestinian Authority has deployed over 600 police and security forces to protect the settlements. They are searching people and cars and are stepping up (security) measures,” Jihad official Abu Imad al-Rifai said.
“We see it as a first step towards trying to gather the weapons of the resistance, and are unsettled about it,” he said, adding: “All possibilities are out there, including a return to martyrdom operations.”
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon flew to Britain today, where he planned to lobby for Yasser Arafat’s deeper isolation amid Israeli threats to deport the Palestinian president if he impedes a West Asia peace plan.
“Israel remains very clear and adamant on the need to put pressure on Arafat and to remove him from a position of power,” a senior Israeli official said.
A source said yesterday Israel conveyed to Washington that if Arafat continued to undermine Abbas it would “reconsider his location and status”.