Palestinian militant groups told an Egyptian envoy Monday they remained committed to a cease-fire with Israel, a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an Israeli bus station, Palestinian officials said.
Leaders from the main militant groups — Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades — made the pledge during meetings with the visiting Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman.
“The calm still exists. We are committed to this. ... All the factions are committed,” Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said.
The Gaza pullout, which Israel aims to finish in the coming weeks, has raised hopes for a resumption of peace talks. But tensions have remained high in recent weeks, despite the 6-month-old cease-fire.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday that not all settlements Israel maintains in the West Bank will remain in place in a final peace accord with the Palestinians.
Interviewed on Channel 10 television, Sharon insisted all of the main settlement blocs would remain under Israeli sovereignty, but “not all the settlements of today in Judea and Samaria will remain,” referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.
Sunday’s suicide bombing in Beersheba, which killed the attacker and seriously wounded two security guards, came days after Israeli troops killed five Palestinians in a West Bank raid and in the wake of two deadly attacks against Arabs by lone Jewish gunmen.
“Israel in the past few weeks has committed brutal massacres against our people, and the Palestinians have a right to respond,” said Nafez Azzam, a leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group. He said, however, the group would continue to honor the cease-fire.
The identity of the bomber remained a mystery Monday. Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa issued a leaflet in the West Bank city of Hebron identifying the attacker as Aiman Zaakiq, 25, from the nearby village of Beit Omar.
Zaakiq’s family insisted he did not carry out the attack and was in an Israeli prison. Israeli officials did not confirm whether he was in prison.
In new violence Monday, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was caught at a West Bank roadblock carrying three pipebombs laced with shrapnel. The army said the boy hoped to enter Israel to carry out an attack.