Hamas leader renews truce offer

Spokesman says Palestinian group stands by original offer based on reciprocation.

    Palestinians mourn during funeral of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza on Tuesday [AFP]

    Islamic Jihad, a group much smaller than Hamas, has been responsible for most of the attacks since Hamas seized total control of Gaza last June from forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah party.


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    "We stand by our original offer for a truce based on reciprocation and an end to attacks by all sides," Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera in a phone interview.

    "Our position has not changed. We are ready to commit to a truce but Israel would also have to simultaneously commit to stopping its raids and assassinations against the Palestinians."


    Earlier reports suggested that Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the Gaza-based Hamas government, made a new truce offer through the Israeli media in a telephone conversation with Suleiman al-Shafi, an Israeli journalist.


    Al-Shafi told the Associated Press news agency that Haniya complained that Israeli attacks have foiled his attempts to halt the rocket fire.


    Conflicting claims


    Al-Shafi quoted Haniya as saying: "I am always trying to stop the rockets from all factions, especially Islamic Jihad, but Israel's assassinations always catch me off guard and spoil my attempts."


    It was unclear who initiated the call.


    Al-Shafi told AP that he was surprised by the phone call from Haniya and was unable to record the conversation.


    But Hamad told Al Jazeera that al-Shafi was the one who initiated the call. Taher Nunu, another Hamas spokesman, made the same claim in his statements to the media.


    News reports quoted Nunu as saying that Haniya did speak of his frustrated efforts to promote a ceasefire in a phone conversation on Tuesday with a reporter for Israel's Channel 2 TV.


    Nunu said: "Haniya said Israel must halt its offensive in Gaza for the violence to end. The occupation should stop its attacks and siege.


    "Then a truce would be possible, and not unlikely."


    In his reaction, Mark Regev, the spokesman for Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said there would be no negotiations until Hamas recognises Israel, renounces violence and accepts existing peace agreements.


    For his part, Haniya, in a speech marking Eid al-Adha on Wednesday, appealed for reconciliation among Palestinians and denounced Israeli actions.


    "The Palestinians greet the feast differently from the other Muslim nations: with martyrs, with members of resistance dying, because of the crimes of the Zionist occupation, the assassinations that do not stop," he said.


    "We greet it with tears in our eyes, and sadness in our hearts."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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