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Mashaal says Israel must make first move on ceasefire

Nov. 19, 2012 8:58 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 20, 2012 4:35 A.M.)
CAIRO (Reuters) -- The exiled leader of Hamas said on Monday Israel must take the first step if it wants a truce in the conflict in Gaza.

"Whoever started the war must end it," Khaled Mashaal told a news conference in Cairo.

Mashaal also said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a ceasefire -- an assertion the Israel immediately denied.

Israel bombed dozens of sites in Gaza on Monday for a sixth day on Monday but mediator Egypt said a deal to end the fighting could be close.

Israel continued its bombardment of the Gaza Strip for the sixth day on Monday, killing 29 people in one day, including two children and four women, raising the death toll to over 100. Three Israeli civilians have been killed by Hamas rocket fire over the border.

Mashaal said a truce in Gaza was possible but Hamas would not yield to any Israeli conditions. Hamas did not want an escalation or to draw Israel into a land invasion but was ready to fight back if the conflict escalated.

Israel had failed to achieve its objectives in Gaza, he said.

"The weapons of the resistance have caught the enemy off guard," he said. "Netanyahu asked for calm and not us."

A senior Israeli government official denied that Netanyahu had requested a truce.

The Hamas leader also called for solidarity in Arab and Palestinian ranks.

"The people of Gaza are not asking for an end of the war, they are asking for their rights, they are asking that Israel end its assassinations and its raids and lift the blockade of Gaza," he said.
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