Hamas rejects Israeli demand on ceasefire term

May 13th, 2008 - 9:18 pm ICT by admin  

Gaza, May 13 (DPA) Hamas rejected Tuesday an Israeli demand that any truce deal with Gaza miltias include the release of an Israeli soldier snatched in a June 2006 cross-border raid and held captive in the Gaza Strip ever since. Linking the release of Gilad Shalit to a ceasefire, Hamas’ Gaza spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters, was “an indirect Israeli escape from the Egyptian initiative to reach a truce.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told visiting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman Monday that Shalit’s release had to be part of the ceasefire Cairo is trying to mediate between Israel and the Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

Shalit was taken by three Gaza militant groups, led by Hamas, in an early-morning raid on an Israeli army outpost southeast of the Gaza Strip. His captors are demanding Israel free 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, but negotiations for his release have so far been unsuccessful.

“Hamas will not keep waiting for the Zionist [Israeli] response to the Egyptian initiative of a truce, and it will use all possible means in order to confront the daily aggression and to lift the blockade,” Abu Zuhri said.

Israel, he added, was “not serious” about responding to the Egyptian truce efforts.

Although Olmert, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni did not reject the Egyptian mediation outright, they all told Suleiman the proposed ceasefire should include Shalit’s release, and should also put an end to arms smuggling into the Strip from Egypt.

Israel has been wary of entering into a truce with Hamas, fearing the miltiant groups would use the lull to rearm and reorganize.

But Israeli officials have said the Israeli military would scale down its air attacks on, and ground forays into, the Gaza Strip if the militant groups halted their continuous rocket fire on southern Israel.

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