Muslim fundamentalists announced a truce Thursday in their power struggle with pro-PLO leaders.
The truce ended a rift that threatened to undermine the nearly 10-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“We must be united despite the differences in our beliefs,” the Muslim fundamentalist group Hamas said in leaflets distributed Thursday. “We are against any kind of split.”
A Hamas leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his group and the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising in the Occupied Territories, backed by the Palestine Liberation Organization, agreed to coordinate general strikes, stop street fighting between the two groups and end the “graffiti war” of defamatory slogans aimed at each other.
Squabble ‘Helping Enemy’
“When we fight each other we are only helping the enemy (Israel),” said the bearded 25-year-old Hamas leader in an interview.
Hamas advocates destruction of Israel and is politically at odds with PLO chief Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction.
Since the start of the uprising, Hamas has repeatedly challenged the Unified Leadership, which is made up of various PLO factions. Last month, a successful general strike called by Hamas in defiance of the PLO sparked fistfights between rival activists.
Village Leader Slain
Also Thursday, unknown assailants killed Mustafa Salim abu Bakr, 46, a mukhtar, or traditional leader, in the West Bank village of Biddiya. They suspected him of being a collaborator by selling village land to Israelis.
Bakr was driving in his car with his two sons, ages 8 and 14, when assailants blocked the road with burning tires, witnesses said.
The gunmen opened fire, killing Bakr and wounding his two sons. The assailants set Bakr’s body on fire after the attack, witnesses said.
The army confirmed the death and clamped a curfew on Biddiya, 45 miles north of Jerusalem. Israel Radio said troops arrested several Palestinians.
A second Palestinian accused of collaborating with Israel, 25-year-old Ahmed Sahour, was sprayed with gunfire in a cafe in the Israeli Arab village of Umm al Fahm, where he had been hiding since being chased out of the nearby West Bank village of Amin, the radio and Arab witnesses said.
Separately, Israel’s elections commission Thursday narrowly defeated moves to exclude a pro-PLO party from participating in the Nov. 1 general election.
The committee, which Wednesday barred the anti-Arab Kach party from the ballot, voted 20-19 against proposals to disqualify the party, the Progressive List for Peace, on grounds that it opposes Israel’s existence.