Hamas sets terms for ceasefire with Israel

Hamas set out its conditions on Wednesday for a ceasefire with Israel, calling for an end to all acts of Israeli ”aggression” in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and the reopening of Gaza border crossings.

Hamas is demanding a say in the future functioning of the crossings, a condition rejected by Israel.

Hamas’s terms mirrored proposals raised by Egyptian mediators trying to piece together a truce deal, which would also end Gaza rocket attacks on Israel by militants from Hamas and other Palestinian groups.

Violence has declined sharply over the past week. A ceasefire could foster progress in United States-brokered peace talks between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas last June.

”There must be a commitment by Israel to end all acts of aggression against our people, assassinations, killings and raids, and lift the [Gaza] siege and reopen the crossings,” Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas’s administration in the Gaza Strip, said in a speech.

A ceasefire, he said, should be ”reciprocal, comprehensive and simultaneous”, apply both to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and be approved by other Palestinian factions.

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

Hamas had previously been vague about whether it would insist on including the West Bank in any Gaza truce.

A spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — in a nod to a de facto truce — said there was ”no need for negotiations” on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

”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,” said the spokesperson, Mark Regev.

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.

He said Israel would not agree to the reopening of border crossings with the Gaza Strip if Hamas has any role ”whatsoever” in their functioning.

Rocket salvoes from the Gaza Strip have tailed off since Israel ended an offensive in the territory nine days ago that killed 120 Palestinians. Israel has not raided the area since wrapping up the operation. — Reuters

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