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Al-Zahhar: Hamas accepts six-month ceasefire in Gaza

April 25, 2008 1:10 P.M. (Updated: April 25, 2008 1:10 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar Hamas said that Hamas is prepared to accept a temporary ceasefire with Israel lasting six months, to begin in the Gaza Strip. The deal would then extend to the West Bank under Egyptian mediation. Israel had refused Hamas' demands that the cease-fire apply simultaneously throughout the Palestinian territories.

Al-Zahhar told a press conference in Egypt that a Hamas delegation had informed Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, that the ceasefire must be reciprocal and Israel must lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip and re-open all crossing points, including the Rafah crossing point into Egypt. But if Israel rejects the ceasefire, Egypt will re-open the Rafah crossing point.

"Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, will invite whichever Palestinian factions Egypt sees fit to the country next Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the Hamas proposals and then when the Palestinian factions have agreed to the terms of the ceasefire, Suleiman will contact the Israeli side to ensure that they are committed to the ceasefire and fix a starting time," Al-Zahhar told reporters.

"Egypt has promised to start immediate contact with the Israeli side to prepare the ground for the ceasefire and to provide basic needs to the Gaza Strip, especially fuel. In addition, Egypt will contact Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to make sure his rival Fatah faction does not obstruct the opening of the crossing points," Zahhar added.

Al-Zahhar concluded by saying the ball is now in Israel's court. If they do not meet their obligations under the ceasefire by stopping attacks and ending the Gaza blockade, then the Palestinians have the legitimate right to defend themselves.

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