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Israel studies truce proposal by Hamas to end rocket fire

Fri., Dec. 21, 2007

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel is examining a Hamas truce proposal delivered by Egypt, defense officials said Thursday after at least six Palestinians were killed in a day of Israeli air and ground strikes aimed at stopping rocket salvos from Gaza.

The Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the Hamas proposal was limited to stopping the rocket fire in exchange for a halt to Israeli military operations in Gaza. They said Hamas gave assurances it could impose the truce on the militant groups that are firing the rockets – Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.

There was no immediate comment from the Egyptian government.

Despite the tentative contacts, there were more Palestinian rocket barrages Thursday. One rocket fired by militants in Gaza exploded next to an Israeli school, terrifying children. Late Thursday, Hamas said it fired three rockets at Israel, its first such claim in weeks, putting the truce talk in doubt.

Hamas first floated the idea of a truce earlier this week when its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, called an Israeli TV reporter. Israel rejected the advance, saying there was no need for a truce because if the rocket fire stopped, Israel would have no reason to attack.

Israel refuses to deal directly with Hamas because the militant Islamic movement rejects the existence of a Jewish state in the Islamic Middle East and routinely calls for its destruction. Previous truces have been negotiated through Egyptian mediation, but none has held for long.

Vice Premier Haim Ramon said the overture was proof that Israel’s strategy of blockading Gaza and battling militants there is working.


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