http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1056134.html

            Last update - 00:46 17/01/2009     
     
     
      Hamas: We will not accept Israel's demands for Gaza cease-fire  
     
      By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies  
     
      Tags: hamas, Israel News, gaza   
     

      Hamas will not accept Israel's conditions for a cease-fire in Gaza and 
will continue armed resistance until the offensive ends, Khaled Meshal, the 
leader of the Palestinian Islamist group, said on Friday. 

      Speaking at the opening of an emergency meeting on Gaza in Doha, Meshal 
called on the leaders present to cut all ties with Israel. 

      Meshal joined Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a surprise 
appearance at the summit, aimed to show their weight in diplomatic efforts 
surrounding the Gaza crisis. 
            
           
      Hamas was to send a delegation to Cairo on Friday to discuss Egyptian 
efforts to mediate a cease-fire in Gaza, a Hamas official told Al-Jazeera 
television. 

      Meshal's comments contradicted a report published in the al-Sharq 
al-Awset daily on Friday, which claimed Hamas was prepared to accept a 
conditional cease-fire with Israel starting on Saturday. 

      According to the report, Hamas has set five conditions for the 
cease-fire: 

      1. The reciprocal truce would begin on Saturday and be followed by the 
immediate transfer of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. 

      2. The Israel Defense Forces must pull all of its troops out of the 
coastal territory within the first week of the truce. 

      3. The flow of trade in and out of the Gaza Strip must be renewed and 
monitored by observers from Egypt, Europe, and Turkey. 

      4. The Rafah crossing must be reopened and supervised by Palestinian 
Authority security forces and international observers, until a Palestinian 
unity government has been established and can take its place. 

      5. The truce would be instated for one year with an option for renewal. 

      Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Friday that the Arab 
initiative for peace with Israel is "dead" because of its offensive in the Gaza 
Strip. 

      Speaking at the summit in Qatar, Assad called on the participating Arab 
countries to sever "all direct and indirect" ties with Israel in protest 
against its continued operation in the coastal strip. 

      Ahmadinejad, who is also attending the meeting of Arab and Muslim leaders 
in Qatar, said the Gaza offensive proved that Israel was in its last throes. 

      Muslim nations "need to cut relations with Israel and America. Just ties. 
They don't need to do anything more than that," Ahmadinejad said Friday, 
according to an Arabic translation of his comments. 

      Earlier Friday, Israeli and Western sources said that Jerusalem has 
rebuffed some of the conditions initially set forth by Hamas for an 
Egyptian-proposed truce in the Gaza Strip, including how long it would last and 
who would manage the border crossings. 

      Jerusalem has expressed reservations regarding the Islamist group's 
terms, despite Cairo's apparent promise to crack down on arms smuggling to Gaza 
- one of Israel's key demands - and Hamas's willingness to accept the offer. 

      The Israeli and Western sources said Israel had objected to putting a 
      time limit on the truce. Hamas proposed a 12-month agreement that could 
later be extended. 

      "A time limit on any period of quiet is a mistake," a senior Israeli 
source said. "We saw that when the previous calm ran out of time, it was just 
an excuse for some to escalate the violence. An open-ended calm is what is 
needed." 

      Another Israeli source said that defense official Amos Gilad, who heads 
the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security department, returned from his first 
day of talks in Egypt on Thursday with a reassuring report of progress. 

      Upon his return, Gilad headed straight to Jerusalem to report to Prime 
Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi 
Livni. Gilad was back in Cairo on Friday for further negotiations. 

      The diplomatic-security cabinet was to meet Friday to vote on the offer, 
but decided to put off the debate until Gilad returns to Israel with an 
additional report. 

      Meanwhile, Livni headed to Washington on Friday to sign a deal of 
understanding with her American counterpart Condoleezza Rice on the joint 
supervision and treatment of weapons smuggling from Iran to the Gaza Strip. 

      "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert authorized this evening the trip of Foreign 
Minister Tzipi Livni to the United States in order to promote an 
American-Israeli outlined agreement intended to deal with weapons smuggling," 
Olmert's office said in a statement. 

      UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he believed a 
cease-fire could be signed in a few days, but this depends on Israel's 
leadership. 

      The Egyptian truce proposal, of which Haaretz obtained a copy Thursday, 
contains three clauses. 

      First, Israel and the Palestinians would agree to an immediate, 
time-limited cease-fire, during which the border crossings will be opened for 
humanitarian aid and Egypt will lead negotiations on a long-term truce. 

      Second, the long-term truce must include provisions on both border 
security and an end to the blockade of Gaza. 

      Third, Fatah and Hamas should resume reconciliation talks. 

      Egyptian officials told Haaretz they believe the initial, short-term 
truce should last a few months, to allow plenty of time for negotiations on the 
long-term cease-fire. 

      However, the proposal does not require Israel to withdraw from Gaza 
during the initial truce, and Hamas has said it will not accept the proposal 
unless that omission is corrected. 

      Salah al-Bardawil, who was Hamas's Gazan representative to the talks with 
Egypt, said his organization demands that Israel completely withdraw within 
five days of whenever the initial cease-fire takes effect. 

      Hamas also insists that the agreement include a deadline by which the 
border crossings must reopen. 

      Israel, for its part, insists that the crossings not be reopened until 
the smuggling issue is resolved to its satisfaction. It also wants Hamas to 
agree to an explicit timetable for concluding a deal on kidnapped soldier Gilad 
Shalit and to be more flexible in what it is demanding in exchange for Shalit. 

     

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