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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hamas, Three Other Palestinian Militant Groups Agree To Three Month Cease Fire

Aired June 25, 2003 - 11:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS: Some breaking news coming in to us now at this hour -- it concerns the Israel/Palestine situation. We have our Jerrold Kessel standing by live in Jerusalem.
Jerrold, what can you tell us? This has something to do with Hamas, yes?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Heidi, what we're getting from senior Palestinian officials is that a three way agreement between the three main radicals groups of the Palestinian side: Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Fatah, the al-Aqsa (ph) Martyrs Brigade are agreeing to a three-month cessation of attacks on Israel.

And they are now presenting this agreement that they have all three put their names to Yasser Arafat (UNINTELLIBLE) and there will be some kind of formal statement later on today from the Palestinian authority that the radical groups have agreed to this moratorium on attacks against Israelis.

This is the word that we are getting from the senior Palestinian official that the agreement was concluded by the two Islamic groups from their people in Damascus over the last 24 hours, it was then submitted to Marwan Barghouti now he's the Fatah leader here in the West Bank, who is in an Israeli prison on trial at the moment for being a leader of the Intifada uprising, and he, the word we are getting from the Palestinian sources -- senior Palestinian official -- has also agreed to the terms of the other two. And that the agreement is now being presented to the Palestinian authority to Yasser Arafat, notably not to the Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas.

That's the word we have. It's been some time in coming, some time in preparation. It does look as if we will get a truce from the Palestinian side. The Palestinian militant groups are still looking for an Israeli commitment that Israel will stop its initiated actions against them.

It's unlikely that Israel will give such formal -- such a formal -- agreement but Israel has been indicating to the United States it will stop all what it calls the targeting of ticking bombs, those Palestinians are on their way to carry out attacks, and would agree to give that kind of unwritten commitment to the United States.

If this does, in fact, come off in the next 24 hours, it would be a formal statement made in Egypt. We understand from the representatives, the three sides and that would open the way for an Israeli agreement with the Palestinian authority to begin the implementation of that long-awaited implementation of the so-called road map for peace -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Well Jerrold, this is obviously -- could become a remarkable development in the Israel/Palestine situation, but all of the pressure that recently seem to have been put on Hamas. It seems a little bit surprising to me that we not only have Hamas that we are talking about here, but Fatah and Islamic Jihad. Is that at all significant now that all three groups could be coming to this agreement?

KESSEL: Yes, it is important. But Hamas was the main ones that the -- the foreground of the ongoing attacks against Israelis. Islamic Jihad and the Fatah, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade indicated all along that they were willing to go along with what was signed, what was agreed upon by the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at the Aqaba summit a couple of weeks ago, with president Bush, when Mahmoud Abbas said he would work to get the agreement of all the radical groups to stop their activities.

Hamas has been the ones who are holding out. And it is very important that they are on board with the other two radical groups.

What else is significant, we understand Heidi, in this document that's now going to Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian sources, leading Palestinian officials are telling CNN, is that the document, the wording specifies halting all attacks against -- all military attacks -- for a three-month period.

Now there had been some doubts on Hamas' part particularly whether the attacks would only be against Israeli civilians or only within the boundaries of the state of Israel and not against settlers or soldiers in the Gaza district or in the West Bank. But it seems that the simple wording has been halt all attacks.

Now we do know one further point, Heidi, to elaborate on this, that Marwan Barghouti, and the Fatah people who had been pressing the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad had wanted an open-ended moratorium, but it's been limited to three months. And there was a question as to whether Fatah would agree to that. It seems they are agreeing to that and it will be formally a three-month hudna (ph), as they call it, a temporary cease fire on behalf of the militant Palestinian groups.

But this is a very definite development in the ending, possibly, or at least temporary ending of this -- what is today -- a 1,000 day conflict between Israel and the Palestinians -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Jerrold Kessel thanks so much for your live reporting for us on this breaking news. I'm going to let you go off to our international stations now.

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