GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Palestinian militant groups told an Egyptian envoy Monday they remained committed to a cease-fire with Israel, a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an Israeli bus station, Palestinian officials said.
Leaders from the main militant groups — Hamas (search), Palestinian Islamic Jihad (search) and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (search) — made the pledge during meetings with the visiting Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman (search).
"The calm still exists. We are committed to this. ... All the factions are committed," Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search) said.
The Gaza pullout, which Israel aims to finish in the coming weeks, has raised hopes for a resumption of peace talks. But tensions have remained high in recent weeks, despite the 6-month-old cease-fire.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) said Monday that not all settlements Israel maintains in the West Bank will remain in place in a final peace accord with the Palestinians.
Interviewed on Channel 10 television, Sharon insisted all of the main settlement blocs would remain under Israeli sovereignty, but "not all the settlements of today in Judea and Samaria will remain," referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.
Sunday's suicide bombing in Beersheba (search), which killed the attacker and seriously wounded two security guards, came days after Israeli troops killed five Palestinians in a West Bank raid and in the wake of two deadly attacks against Arabs by lone Jewish gunmen.
"Israel in the past few weeks has committed brutal massacres against our people, and the Palestinians have a right to respond," said Nafez Azzam, a leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group. He said, however, the group would continue to honor the cease-fire.
The identity of the bomber remained a mystery Monday. Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa issued a leaflet in the West Bank city of Hebron identifying the attacker as Aiman Zaakiq, 25, from the nearby village of Beit Omar.
Zaakiq's family insisted he did not carry out the attack and was in an Israeli prison. Israeli officials did not confirm whether he was in prison.
In new violence Monday, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was caught at a West Bank roadblock carrying three pipebombs laced with shrapnel. The army said the boy hoped to enter Israel to carry out an attack.
Suleiman, a close adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (search), has frequently helped mediate security issues between the Palestinians and Israelis. He is scheduled to hold more meetings with Palestinian leaders and militant officials, as well as to give a speech to the Palestinian parliament, before holding talks with Israeli leaders Wednesday.
The Palestinians are hoping Egypt will persuade Israel to allow them free movement across the Gaza-Egypt border, to lift a sea blockade of the Gaza coast and to allow unfettered flights from the airport the Palestinians intend to rebuild.
Israel wants assurances that Gaza militants won't smuggle in weapons for use against Israel and has proposed relocating the border crossing from inside Gaza to a point where the Gaza, Egyptian and Israeli borders meet so that it can continue to monitor the traffic.
Under an agreement with Israel, Egypt will deploy 750 lightly armed troops to replace Israeli forces patrolling the Gaza-Egypt border. The Israeli parliament is being summoned from its summer recess this week to approve the accord. As part of the agreement, Egypt pledged not to give arms to the Palestinian Authority (search).
The Egyptians also have agreed to help retrain and reform the overlapping Palestinian security services, which sometimes operate as private armies in Gaza and the West Bank. Egypt has sent an advance 35-member team to assess Palestinian needs, but the training has not yet begun.
Israeli officials said it was unclear whether Suleiman would be able to bridge the differences with the Palestinians on this trip.
Israeli Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz said it could take months to reach agreement over control of Gaza's border crossings, as well as over safe passage for Palestinians to move from Gaza, across Israel, to the West Bank.
"We want to help them, to give them the opportunity to cross as easy as they can from Gaza to the West Bank — but on the other hand, because of the fact that it's going to move through Israel, we have to be very careful," Pines-Paz told reporters.