Israel pledges to stick with fragile truce


JERUSALEM, Reuters

Israel said on Tuesday its truce with the Palestinians was in crisis but it would stick to the U.S.-brokered cease-fire plan despite a surge in violence.

“The cease-fire is in a very deep crisis and we have to do everything to save it because halting the cease-fire means more victims and more blood on both sides,” Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told a parliamentary committee.

The death toll has continued to mount since the truce was agreed on June 13, but a meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his inner Cabinet brought no change in Israel’s proclaimed policy of “restraint,” Israeli security sources said.

Ministers were downbeat after the session.

“The situation is troubling. The cease-fire is not as yet completely established and it’s going (towards) an extremely difficult period of time,” Peres said.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said Israeli violations were sabotaging the truce achieved with Washington’s help. An elusive seven-day period of quiet was to be the first step towards implementing the truce-to-talks Mitchell plan.

“Sharon alone is responsible for the crimes of the past days. He is the one who opened the wasps’ nest,” Abed Rabbo said in a statement. “Each time we begin to seriously implement a cease-fire … Sharon kills the opportunity by conducting a policy of assassination and terror.”

The Palestinians accuse Israel of having killed some 40 activists since an uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip broke out more than nine months ago.

The Israeli army killed three Palestinian militants in a helicopter attack on Monday.

However, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelosoff said the cease-fire had remained largely a unilateral Israeli move.

“The situation today cannot be defined as a cease-fire … The Palestinian side is not fulfilling our demands for the cease-fire nor implementing their obligations,” she told Army Radio.

“From our side, in view of the other side’s behavior, we stopped at a certain stage the steps we were obligated to take.”