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Zahhar: Hamas' ceasefire offer still on the table

April 29, 2008 5:10 P.M. (Updated: April 29, 2008 5:10 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Hamas will not send any more emissaries to Egypt to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire with Israel, and will wait for Egyptian intelligence chief Umar Sulaiman to compel Israel to accept a truce offered by Hamas, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a political meeting at the Islamic University in Gaza, Zahhar expected Umar Sulaiman to visit Israel soon in a final attempt to secure Israel's cooperation with a ceasefire.

Zahhar also warned that Hamas would not hesitate to strike back if Israel refused to cooperate: "If Israel decides to reject a ceasefire, they will pay a heavy toll because the besieged Gaza Strip's people will have no choice but to defend their lives against the siege," added Zahhar.

Nonetheless, Zahhar's remarks suggested that Hamas' offer for a truce is still on the table despite ongoing Israeli attacks, especially in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces killed eight people, including a mother and her four young children, in the Gaza Strip on Monday.

However, Zahhar expected optimism that Israel would agree to a ceasefire after haggling about the details of the agreement. The deal will include opening all Gaza Strip's terminals and crossings including Rafah crossing, in case the Egyptian efforts succeeded, he said.

He also explained his view that has Hamas benefited from past ceasefires, especially in 2005.

Zahhar, a founder of Hamas and the former Palestinian foreign minister, is considered to be one of the more hawkish members of the movement's leadership.

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