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Jihad, PRC 'will not accept' Gaza ceasefire

March 12, 2012 3:32 P.M. (Updated: March 13, 2012 11:19 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Islamic Jihad held a press conference on Monday warning that it would not agree to a truce with Israel while airstrikes continue to kill Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"We will not agree on a ceasefire stipulated by Israel, neither do we accept a ceasefire while the lives of our people are taken without restraint," Jihad officials told reporters in Gaza City.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told Reuters in Cairo he expected a ceasefire to be reached, but the timing depended on Israel.

"I expect matters will calm down," Zahhar said. "The statements coming from them (Israel) either in public or via mediators, especially Egypt, say that they do not want escalation."

Israeli airstrikes have killed 23 Palestinians and wounded at least 80 since Friday, when Israel assassinated the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees.

The PRC's armed wing, the Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, on Monday expressed its support for Islamic Jihad's stance.

Brigades spokesman Abu Mujahid urged all other Palestinian factions to join forces to face the Israeli assaults on the Gaza Strip.

Four days of airstrikes on Gaza, which have killed a 15-year-old and 12-year-old, have targeted a number of Islamic Jihad fighters.

The group says it has fired 80 Grad missiles and 100 other mortars and rockets into southern Israel since Friday, and pledged to continue fighting. Six Israelis have been injured by rockets from Gaza.

Islamic Jihad criticized the focus of efforts to reach a truce being directed at their group.

"Those who have hardly had time to breathe while they seek a ceasefire deal should send their message to the enemy, rather than to the resistance," Jihad officials said.

EU and UN diplomats have called for calm and Egypt is seeking to broker a truce deal between the factions and Israel. Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Sunday that Palestinian factions in the coastal strip had responded positively to his contacts with Egypt to halt the violence.

But on Monday, spokesman of Hamas' armed wing said the ceasefire would not carry off unless all factions agree.

"There cannot be a unilateral ceasefire while our people’s blood is being shed. It is natural that resistance factions respond to the Israeli aggression, and factions completely coordinate their action and through this coordination they can decide whether to agree on ceasefire or not," Abu Ahmad told reporters.

Hamas's Al-Qassam Brigades have not claimed responsibility for any rockets fired into Israel.

Israeli military spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai confirmed that they were in contact with Egyptian mediators, in comments to Israel Radio.

A Palestinian official close to the mediation told Reuters that Israel had agreed to a midnight ceasefire.

But Islamic Jihad had balked, he said, insisting that any truce include an undertaking by Israel not to target militant leaders in future air strikes.

Reuters contributed to this report
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