Well-informed Palestinian sources announced on Sunday night that rival factions Fatah and Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) had agreed to end street armed clashes across the Gaza Strip and remove militants from the streets.
The sources revealed that the two movements had reached agreement following mediation by leaders of the Islamic Jihad (Holy War) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Leaders of the four groups would announce the cease-fire deal at a joint press conference held in Gaza at 10:00 PM local time (20:00 GMT), according to the sources.
Media reports said that in the eight-point deal, both rivals agreed to an immediate ceasefire, withdrawing all armed members from streets and returning security elements to positions held before the eruption of violence.
They also agreed to cease smearing media campaigns and street rallies and to release prisoners on both sides.
The two parties would also form a neutral committee to probe the latest incidents, including the Rafah border crossing incident when Prime Minister Haneya's convoy was attacked.
"This agreement is a base for forming a national unity government," said a PFLP member, adding "it applies to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."
The Fatah movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed the ceasefire and urged Hamas to keep its promise over the deal.
"Fatah is trying to control its forces. We hope there will be a cease-fire. We have serious intentions of stopping the fighting," said Tawfik Abu Khoussa, spokesman for Fatah.
As fighting continued to rage in the streets of Gaza City, Abu Khoussa stressed that "we have intentions to stop the fighting and it is now up to the other side to also stop firing."
Meanwhile Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haneya rejected President Mahmoud Abbas' call for early presidential and legislative elections in the Palestinian territories.
At a meeting of his Hamas-led cabinet in Gaza, Haneya said the Palestinian government rejects "the call for holding early legislative elections because it is not a constitutional call."
Haneya also slammed Abbas' Saturday speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah, saying "such a speech can never unify, (as) it is a provocative speech that ridicules the Palestinian resistance."
"The government hoped to listen to a speech that unifies the Palestinians and not to provoke them," said Haneya, adding that "the Palestinian government is determined to impose law and discipline to protect citizens and achieve security."
He further called on Abbas to issue clear instructions to his presidential guards to stop targeting defenseless residents, "because no one accepts to target the lives of innocent residents."
Palestinian security sources said that Hamas militants attacked earlier on Sunday a compound belongs to Abbas' Presidential guards, wounding four and burning down tents and equipment.
The ongoing armed clashes between the supporters of rival Hamas and Fatah movements have left one 19-year-old female student dead and more than 12 wounded all over the Gaza Strip.
(Xinhua News Agency December 18, 2006)