"Hamas will not commit the same mistake in agreeing on a new truce with Israel which will not be respected by the latter," Yasin told Saudi magazine Al-Majallah, published in London on Friday. 

Yasin said, however, that his group was prepared for a new truce "on the condition that the countries that want this truce give guarantees" to Hamas. 

These guarantees include "respect for the truce by Israel, and an end to the occupation and aggression against the Palestinian people." 

Unilateral truce

Last June, Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced a three-month
suspension of anti-Israeli attacks that was brokered by Egypt, but the Palestinian armed groups attached conditions and Israel said it placed no value on the ceasefire. 

"We have lost an Arab leader (Saddam) who rejected the Zionist plan on the land of Palestine... who refused to recognise Israel. If he had remained (in power), he would have represented a threat to Israel, in the future... apart from the financial aid he gave fighters, in particular the martyrs (suicide bombers)"

Sheikh Ahmad Yassin
Hamas spiritual leader

The unilateral truce collapsed on 22 August. In November, Egypt renewed efforts to secure a ceasefire. But the following month, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya suffered a blow when Hamas and Islamic Jihad blocked efforts at talks in Cairo to secure a truce, which he had hoped to use as a tool to bargain a reciprocal ceasefire with Israel. 

"Hamas will not halt attacks on Israeli civilians as long as Israeli forces do not cease attacks on Palestinian civilians," said Yasin, who did not rule out the possibility that "the armed branch of Hamas could target Israeli officials including (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, in retaliation for the assassination of top Hamas officials by Israeli forces." 

'Loss' of Saddam

Commenting on the 13 December arrest of Saddam Hussein by US-led forces in Iraq, Yasin described the former president's capture as "a loss" for the Palestinian cause. 

"We have lost an Arab leader who rejected the Zionist plan on
the land of Palestine... who refused to recognise Israel. If he had remained (in power), he would have represented a threat to Israel, in the future... apart from the financial aid he gave fighters, in particular the martyrs (human bombers)," Yasin said.