Hamas offers Israel six-month ceasefire in Gaza Strip

April 25th, 2008 - 7:34 am ICT by admin  

Cairo/Tel Aviv, April 25 (DPA) The Palestinian militant group Hamas has offered Israel a six-month ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, broadcast and other media reports in the region said late Thursday. The ceasefire would have to be a mutual arrangement and lead to an end of the Israeli blockade and the opening of all border crossings to the Gaza Strip, the high-ranking Hamas member Mahmoud Zahar was quoted as saying in Cairo by Israeli media.

Islamic Jihad and other militant Palestinian organizations have agreed to the ceasefire, the former Palestinian foreign minister added after meeting with Egyptian government representatives.

According to Zahars, the ceasefire is intended to be expanded to include the West Bank.

“The movement agrees to a truce in the Gaza Strip … fixed at six months, during which period Egypt will work to extend the truce to the West Bank,” Zahar was quoted as saying to reporters by Al Jazeera broadcaster.

There was no reaction from the Israeli government Thursday evening to the Hamas offer. Israeli government spokesmen have emphasized over the past days that Israel was not conducting any direct or indirect discussions with Hamas about a ceasefire.

In exchange for an end to deployment of the Israeli Army into the Gaza Strip, Israel is demanding, among other things, a halt to the daily firing of homemade Qassam rockets into Israel’s border towns.

The offer of a ceasefire came as Hamas was preparing massive protests for Friday at at all border crossings in Gaza.

The United Nations has stopped food aid deliveries for 650,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza because of fuel shortages, a UN spokesperson told local media in Israel late Thursday.

Israel charges that Hamas has plenty of fuel but has refused to distribute it in an effort to create a humanitarian crisis.

Colonel Nir Press, the Israeli military officer in charge of border traffic with the Gaza Strip, told DPA that Israel has coordinated with Palestinian oil officials a delivery of 100,000 litres diesel and 20,000 litres petrol for UNRWA.

The ceasefire proposal was expected to have been presented by the Hamas delegation, led by Zahar, to Egypt’s intelligence chief, General Omar Sulayman, Palestinian sources said earlier in Cairo.

Hamas has previously rejected a unilateral truce, saying Israel should halt its operations in the Gaza Strip concurrently with any ceasefire by Palestinian factions.

A Hamas lawmaker, Mushir al-Masri, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the proposal to start a ceasefire in Gaza first could not take effect unless it was accepted by all Palestinian factions.

“We have been trying very hard to negotiate a comprehensive truce and a de-escalation of the situation in all Palestinian land,” al- Masri said.

The lawmaker’s comments reflect the view held by the group’s hard- line wing.

A spokesman for the popular resistance committees, Abu-Mujahid, told dpa that there was a Palestinian consensus about a mutual, comprehensive ceasefire rather than one limited to the Gaza Strip.

Abu-Mujahid said any truce should be accompanied by an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, a halt to all military operations and the opening of the border crossings.

Israel’s army regularly carries out incursions and airstrikes in Gaza, which Hamas has controlled since June 2007, in retaliation for rocket attacks launched from there.

Israel must declare a truce concurrently with any ceasefire by Palestinian factions, Abu-Mujahid said.

“We can not accept a truce while Israeli rockets are falling on us,” Abu-Mujahid said.

Egyptian officials have proposed a meeting of all Palestinian factions in Cairo where truce proposals would be discussed, Abu-Mujahid added.

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