Apparently hoping for a reprieve from Yasser Arafat's efforts to rein in extremists, the Islamic Jihad said Saturday it is willing to consider a temporary freeze on anti-Israeli attacks - but only in areas run by Palestinians.
The freeze would last until July 1 and apply only to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank area of Jericho, the two areas of Palestinian self-rule, Islamic Jihad sources told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.But Arafat's self-rule government should first drop its insistence that Islamic Jihad fighters surrender their arms and release the estimated 50 Islamic Jihad members in prison, said one source.
The source, a senior member of the group, said the Islamic Jihad made the proposal last week and has yet to hear from Palestinian authorities.
"The ball is now in the court of the government," he said.
It is the first time the group has shown a willingness to acquiesce to Arafat's government, which has been running Gaza and Jericho since autonomy began there about a year ago.
Since then, Arafat's Palestinian Authority has been negotiating with Israel to expand self-rule to the West Bank. Israel and the PLO have set July 1 as a deadline to reach agreement on a troop withdrawal from the West Bank, a precursor for holding Palestinian general elections.
But the talks have been undermined by attacks by Islamic Jihad and its sister group, Hamas. They and other militants have killed 124 Israelis since Arafat signed the peace accord with Israel in September 1993.
A secular opposition faction group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also said it would refrain from "actions that would increase tensions in Palestinian-ruled areas, including military operations against Israel."
A spokesman, Ahmed Hammad, said Arafat promised DFLP leaders at a Friday meeting that he would release the group's 18 prisoners.