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22 Apr 2008 14:34
Hamas plans to give Egyptian mediators its final response on Thursday to a proposed truce with Israel, a Hamas official said on Tuesday.
Egypt’s state newspaper, al-Ahram, reported a preliminary agreement had been reached on “achieving a period of calm with the Israelis”.
A Palestinian official familiar with the Islamist group’s talks with Egypt said he expected Hamas to agree to a reciprocal truce with Israel “in the Gaza Strip, at this stage”.
Hamas, which controls the coastal territory, had said it also wanted a ceasefire to cover the occupied West Bank, where the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds sway.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said the group would present its final response to Egypt on Thursday.
He declined to comment on its content but said any ceasefire should be based on “ending the aggression against the Palestinian people” and securing the opening of Gaza border crossings.
Israel, which tightened restrictions on the Gaza Strip after Hamas violently took over the territory from Fatah in June, has said it was not negotiating a truce with the group but had no reason to launch attacks if cross-border rocket fire stopped.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Friday Egypt was making good progress trying to reach a tacit ceasefire, including a prisoner exchange, between Israel and Hamas.
Aboul Gheit said the mediation plan called for a cessation of hostilities on both sides, a prisoner swap and opening the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Israel and the United States call Hamas a terrorist group and shun contacts with it, but Washington has quietly given a nod for Egypt to negotiate with Hamas.—Reuters
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