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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 22:42 GMT 23:42 UK
Arafat faction rejects attacks on Israel
Yasser Arafat addresses the PLC
Arafat has condemned attacks on Israeli civilians
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah movement says it rejects and will prevent attacks on civilians in Israel and is asking militant groups such as Hamas to do the same.

The announcement, backed by Fatah's grassroots militia group Tanzim, includes a commitment to peace and co-existence with Israel.

Attacks on innocent civilians are terrorism, no matter where they take place

Israeli spokesman
However it is not clear whether the declaration has been endorsed by one of Fatah's most militant factions, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

The Fatah move, just before the second anniversary of the current Palestinian uprising, received a sceptical reaction from Israeli officials.

The declaration comes a day after Yasser Arafat condemned all attacks against Israeli civilians in a speech to the Palestinian assembly in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

However, he stopped short of calling for an end to suicide bomb attacks.

The United States administration has dismissed Mr Arafat's address as "nothing new" and again called for his replacement.

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says it is far from clear that Mr Arafat's declaration will stop the suicide bombings against Israeli civilians but it is a step in that direction.

'Not enough'

"We reject and will prevent all attacks on Israeli civilians to preserve the higher national interest of the Palestinian people and in accordance with our moral values and tolerant religion," said the Fatah statement.

But, it added, Fatah remained committed to what it called its legitimate right to resist the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli tank in Ramallah
Arafat says elections will follow an Israeli withdrawal
The statement follows weeks of internal discussions.

Although it expresses support for Yasser Arafat, it echoes widespread Palestinian complaints about his failure to root out corruption and human rights abuses.

An Israeli Government spokesman said that halting violence in Israel, but not the West Bank and Gaza, was insufficient.

"Attacks on innocent civilians are terrorism, no matter where they take place", Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman said.

A local leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade told the BBC Arabic Service that the group would strike at the Israelis "inside their homes" as long as the occupation continued.

Vote looms

Members of the Palestinian parliament had threatened to reject Mr Arafat's new cabinet in a vote of confidence as they entered a second day of meetings in Ramallah on Tuesday.

However the vote has now been postponed to Wednesday.

Deputies in Gaza watch the session by video link
Many Palestinians say the cabinet reshuffle did not go far enough
The deputies are due to vote on the slimmed-down cabinet appointed by Mr Arafat in June under international pressure.

Mr Arafat had undertaken to root out corruption and streamline the security services.

The vote is the first serious test of how far Mr Arafat's initial measures have gone towards meeting Palestinian demands for reform in his Palestinian Authority.

Many Palestinians have denounced the reshuffle as purely cosmetic exercise and a significant number of deputies are expected to vote against the cabinet on Wednesday.

"There was no genuine change in the government," said one deputy from Jenin, Jamal Shati.

The BBC's Peter Biles
"There is some uncertainty about the extent of mainstream Palestinian support for such a policy"

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See also:

09 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Jul 02 | Middle East
26 Jun 02 | Middle East
09 Jun 02 | Middle East
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