Fears of violence after peace deal delay: Hopes remain high for release of political prisoners but militants expected to use hold-up to undermine PLO credibility

THE FAILURE of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, and Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), to agree terms for withdrawal in time for today's deadline, will cause an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, Palestine activists in Gaza warned last night.

However, although confusion and anger is certain to spread on the streets, moderate leaders who support the peace deal were not despondent, saying they still expected withdrawal by Israeli forces to begin in the near future. Furthermore, they supported Mr Arafat for not giving in to Israeli demands on the central areas of dispute, including control at border crossing points, the size of Jericho, and Israeli military presence in and around Jewish settlements.

'Arafat has shown that the PLO are not going to give the Israelis everything they are asking. We all knew this process could take a long time, and the delay is no big surprise. Mr Arafat has shown to Palestinians opposed to the agreement that he is thinking seriously about the future of Palestine,' said Sami Abu Samhandani, a PLO leader in Gaza.

Among the Palestinian public, expectations had been high in Gaza, and in the West Bank town of Jericho, where Israeli withdrawal was due to start first, that today would bring the first substantial evidence that the peace agreement, signed in September, was for real.

In Gaza City and refugee camps nearby Palestinians waited anxiously last night for the outcome of the Cairo talks. Reports had circulated during the day that troops would start withdrawing from Jabaliya camp, one of the largest refugee camps in Gaza, overnight. Unusual troop movements fuelled such speculation. There were also reports that Israel was preparing to pull back from other Palestinian towns, and to evacuate a police station.

However, Mr Rabin and Mr Arafat announced they had failed to resolve their differences and the start of withdrawal was to be delayed for at least 10 days. Some symbolic gestures of withdrawal are still expected today to try to ease public anxiety. And hopes remained high last night that Israel would go ahead with the planned release of up to 1,000 political prisoners. But the message from Cairo swiftly dampened the earlier excitement in Gaza.

'The people here are very disappointed,' said Mr Abu Samhandani. 'That disappointment may lead to anger and to violence.'

While Mr Rabin had deliberately prepared Israeli public opinion for the possibility of a delay, saying today was only a 'target date', Mr Arafat had raised hopes, saying that 13 December was a 'sacred day'. The Rabin government has emphasised that it views the deadline for completion of withdrawal, 13 April, as more important than the date set for the start.

Mr Arafat's failure to lower expectations when the negotiations ran into difficulties brought him criticism yesterday.

'If the people here now see no changes on the streets they will become suspicious of Israeli intentions. This will not help the peace agreement,' said Marwana Kafarnah, an opposition Palestinian activist.

Militants opposed to the peace deal, in particular members of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, are expected to use the delay to fuel opposition, and to undermine the credibility of Mr Arafat and the PLO.

At the same time violent elements within Fatah, the mainstream moderate group within the PLO, are expected to break ranks and resort to arms as a show of strength. In recent weeks the Fatah Hawks, an armed group within Fatah, have made clear they are not bound by Mr Arafat's call to lay down arms, issued after the peace agreement was signed.

'During the next few days we may see more violence from Fatah elements. They will want to show the Israelis we are going to the talks not because we have no other choice about how to achieve our ends,' said one Fatah source.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm it was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf plays a World War II soldier in forthcoming drama Fury
films

Eccentric Fury star, 28, reveals he is 'not a really confident actor'

Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Sport
football

Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight
fashion

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Senior Change Engineer (Windows, Linux, VMWare) - London £35k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past