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Hamas: Egypt offered fuel in return for calm

March 12, 2012 6:12 P.M. (Updated: March 13, 2012 7:43 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egypt offered to provide fuel to Gaza if militants agree to a ceasefire with Israel, Hamas-affiliated MP Younis al-Astal said Monday.

The Gaza Strip has faced up to 18-hour blackouts per day since Egypt cut fuel supplies through an underground tunnel network, and officials are negotiating an emergency route to stave the power crisis. Gaza's sole power station shut down on Saturday evening for the third time in the past month.

Widespread power cuts come as Israeli airstrikes pound the Gaza Strip. Since Friday, 23 Palestinians have been killed and at least 80 injured the bombings.

Militants in Gaza have responded with a volley of rocket fire into southern Israel, which have injured four Israelis.

Speaking at a sit-in protest in Gaza, al-Astal said the Hamas-led government told Egyptian mediators that Israel had initiated the escalation and must also end it, echoing senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar, who said earlier the timing of a ceasefire would depend on Israel.

"Hamas has not taken any decision now to escalate. It is trying with the Palestinian factions and the rest of the parties to reach a conditional truce, a truce conditioned on the Israeli enemy halting the aggression and pledging that targeting will not happen again," Zahhar said, referring to Israel's killing of the head of the Popular Resistance Committees on Friday.

Al-Astal said UN envoy Robert Serry had contacted Zahhar to mediate a ceasefire and that the Hamas official had told Serry that Israel must stop its aggression.

Senior Hamas official Ahmad Yousef told Ma'an that Egyptian and European mediators were working to restore calm to the coastal enclave.

But Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees said that they would not accept a ceasefire with Israel while Israeli warplanes continued to kill Palestinians.

"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 on Monday.

Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire appeared to be stuck over a demand by Islamic Jihad that Israel first promise not to target militant leaders for future attack.
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