Hamas sets terms for Israeli truce

Haniya calls for "reciprocal, comprehensive" deal for Gaza and West Bank.

    Dozens have been left dead in recent weeks by Israeli raids in the Palestinian territories [AFP]

    Haniya said: "There must be a commitment by Israel, to end all its aggression against our people, assassinations, killings and raids, and lift the [Gaza] siege and reopen the crossings."
     
    A ceasefire deal, he said, should be "reciprocal, comprehensive and simultaneous" and apply both to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

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    "We will not abandon you, our people in the West Bank," Haniya said. "Aggression against you is aggression against us."

    A truce could be key to the success of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, whose Fatah faction lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas after bloody Palestinian in-fighting last June.

    The number of rocket attacks from Gaza has decreased sharply since Israel ended an offensive in the territory nine days ago. The raids left at least 120 Palestinians dead, about half of whom were identified as civilians.

    Negotiations

    A spokesman for Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, in response to Haniya's comments, said there was "no need for negotiations" on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

    Israeli leaders insist that they will not negotiate with Hamas, which the West has labeled it a "terrorist" organisation.

    Mark Regev, the spokesman, said: "We can have calm in the south if there is a total absence of rocket and missile fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel, if Hamas ceases terrorist operations against Israelis, and if there is an end to illegal smuggling of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip."

    "If there is quiet and these conditions are met, there will be quiet."

    Israel tightened its Gaza border restrictions - a move Palestinians said has turned the territory into a huge prison - and created a humanitarian crisis, after the Hamas takeover nine months ago.

    Alaa Araj, an adviser to Haniya, said Hamas accepts a deployment of Fatah-loyal forces to Gaza's borders in principle, even though it means giving up some control, and that they have given Egypt names of pro-Abbas officers who would be acceptable.

    A deal to re-open crossings could also include a prisoner exchange involving Palestinians held in Israeli jails and an Israeli soldier seized by Gaza fighters in 2006.

    However, Regev appeared to rebuff the idea of halting Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank, saying it would be irresponsible "not to defend ourselves against ... hard-core terrorists" there.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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