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Hamas, Israel in indirect 'exchange of ideas' over truce

June 17, 2015 9:57 A.M. (Updated: June 17, 2015 10:38 P.M.)
An Israeli soldier runs past a flag belonging to the ruling Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, on Nov. 17, 2012. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Israel and Hamas have been holding an indirect exchange about ideas for cementing a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip, Hamas sources said Tuesday.

The exchanges have gone through a number of Arab and European channels in a bid to firm up a ceasefire agreement that took hold last August, ending a 50-day war in Gaza.

"There has been indirect contact between Israel and Hamas, messages passed via Arab channels as well as through European and Turkish sources," one of the sources told AFP, describing it as "an indirect exchange of ideas."

The contacts were confirmed by an Israeli source.

The Egyptian-brokered truce came into effect on August 26, with the sides pledging to resume indirect contacts within a month to pin down a lasting ceasefire and discuss crunch issues.

But the follow-up talks were delayed several times and never formally resumed.

"We are ready for an agreement. Hamas wants to solve the problems in Gaza," the source in the movement said.

But he insisted the contacts were purely informal and that there was no formal initiative or proposal on the table.

"Hamas has received some European envoys in Gaza and Doha with messages from Israel.

"We received several envoys but it's not officially talks. It's indirect ideas and communication," he said, noting the involvement of a UN official as well as members of the European parliament.

Asked about the indirect contact with Hamas, an Israeli source confirmed there had been some discussions.

"There are contacts with Egypt and other elements over an easing of the blockade and the entry of materials to Gaza in exchange for quiet," he told AFP.

Indirect exchanges between the two sides come as past weeks have seen sporadic rocket fire towards Israel from Gaza, most attacks claimed by a small group by the name of Sheikh Omar Hadid-Bayt al-Maqdis, allegedly aiming to challenge Hamas' rule in the strip.

No damage or injuries have been reported from the attacks.

Israel has responded by targeting Hamas infrastructure in air strikes.

Hamas denies involvement in the attacks and has attempted to vamp down on armed activity by smaller political groups reportedly growing more active.

"...Hamas is finding it difficult to control Islamic Jihad and other elements in order to do this," the Israeli source told AFP, referring to Hamas' ability to maintain quiet in the coastal enclave.

In addition to sporadic rockets, Israeli forces frequently enter the Gaza Strip and Palestinians along both the land and seaside borders are facing near daily fire from forces, with three Palestinian fishermen shot dead since September. Israeli watchdogs say the incursions violate Israel's agreed limits of the Israeli-implemented security buffer zone that runs inside around the entirety of the strip.

Palestinian children stand amid the rubble of their partially rebuilt house, on May 11, 2015, which was destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Ending the suffering

The Hamas source said senior members of the movement had met in Doha over the weekend for talks with the Qataris, while denying remarks attributed to a senior Hamas official which suggested there was a written proposal under discussion.

He said the discussions were about an agreement of five to 10 years, and focused on key issues for Hamas such as ending Israel's blockade, which is now entering its ninth year, and the establishment of a sea passage between Gaza and the outside world.

He did not say whether other Palestinian factions were involved in the talks, such as Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah, which was heavily involved in the Egyptian-brokered talks that ended the conflict.

The war last summer claimed the lives of over 2,200 Palestinians, the majority of whom where civilians, UN figures show. On the Israeli side, 73 people were killed, most of them soldiers.

Earlier on Tuesday, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said that a long-term truce would be welcome as long as it ended the suffering in Gaza.

"This is important, as long as it is not at the expense of unity of the nation and the people," he said in a statement.

"Any truce must aim to lift the suffering of our people, and must not have as its price a move away from the Palestinian and national consensus."

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
Outlier / USA
Hamas needs to take responsibility for the suffering it caused Gazans by starting and prolonging last year's conflict. It and no one else is responsible.
18/06/2015 21:32
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