Arafat's Fatah joins cease-fire
Israelis pull forces from northern Gaza
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement said Sunday evening it would stop all military actions against Israel, joining a cease-fire announced earlier by militant groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Fatah released its statement shortly after Israeli troops began to leave northern Gaza, the first step toward handing over security chores in that region to the Palestinians. The Israelis completed their withdrawal from northern Gaza late Sunday, military sources said.
The Fatah announcement would apply to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the militant group aligned with it. Earlier, Hamas and Islamic Jihad released a statement agreeing to a three-month cease-fire.
Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations and have admitted attacks on Israelis.
The actions coincided with a visit to the region by U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, the third top U.S. official to visit the Mideast in the last month. President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell preceded her.
Fatah's announcement did not contain a time frame, although it referenced an Egyptian cease-fire initiative, which included a six-month truce.
But Israeli officials said a cease-fire signed by groups they consider terrorists would mean little unless the Palestinian Authority begins to crack down on the militant groups.
"It's not enough to have an internal truce between these groups and the Palestinian Authority," said Ra'anan Gissin, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "They have to dismantle the terrorist groups and stop the incitement."
A small group of Palestinian militants, Gissin said, is keeping the rest of the Palestinian population from achieving peace.
Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN that Israeli intelligence had reports that Palestinian militants were planning more attacks against Israelis.
"Now we can't say right now if there's any letup in this, because we don't see it yet," the former prime minister said on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. "But we hope there will be, obviously a reduction, indeed an end to these things.
"The only way you can achieve that is by having the Palestinians do what President Bush has demand them to do, that is to take apart the terrorist organizations which launch the terrorists," he said.
Palestinian Cabinet member Ghassan Khatib told CNN he "can understand why Israeli officials are nervous ... because, if this is going to be successful, then the Israelis will be faced from their side with having to fulfill their obligations from the road map."
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee said there was "still more work to be done."
"Anything that reduces violence is a step in the right direction," she said. "Under the road map, parties have an obligation to dismantle terrorist infrastructures."
Although the cease-fire was to take effect immediately, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas statement contained several demands of Israel:
• An end to Israeli attacks against Palestinians, including assassination of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders, destruction of the homes of suspected militants, an end to incursions into Palestinian territory and a removal of Israeli checkpoints in Gaza;
• Protection of Islamic holy places;
• An end to the siege that has kept Arafat confined to his Ramallah, West Bank, compound for months;
• Release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Ismail Abu Shanab, Hamas political spokesman in Gaza, told CNN in a telephone interview that the cease-fire would not be endangered if all Palestinian prisoners were not released. He said the groups wanted the initial release of the 932 Palestinians held in administrative detention without charges and a viable process begun to eventually obtain the release of the other prisoners.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said Saturday it would not be a part of the truce, Palestinian sources told CNN. But on Sunday, Palestinian Cabinet member Saeb Erakat told CNN the group had pledged it would "not break the national consensus."
In Jerusalem, Rice completed meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a joint meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials early Sunday, followed by a meeting with the Israeli Cabinet.
She met Saturday with Palestinian officials, including Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
In Washington, White House sources said Rice invited Abbas and his team of negotiators and Israeli negotiators to Washington for talks on the Middle East road map for peace, but that she was simply reiterating President Bush's invitation and no date has been set.
-- CNN Senior International Correspondent Sheila MacVicar, Correspondents Matthew Chance and Jerrold Kessel, Producer Rida Said, and White House Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.