December 23, 2007 in Nation/World

Hamas truce draws more Israeli backing

Ian Deitch Associated Press

JERUSALEM – Another high-ranking Israeli official said Saturday that he would support a conditional cease-fire with Hamas if the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip halts rocket fire into Israel.

Cabinet Minister Ami Ayalon, a former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, added his voice in favor of the proposal.

Israeli infrastructure minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister, said Friday that he also favored a conditional cease-fire with Hamas, becoming the highest-ranking official to welcome the militant group’s proposal.

Ben-Eliezer said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may consider discussing a long-term cease-fire with Hamas if the group stops smuggling arms into Gaza and negotiates the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas-affiliated militants last year.

The Palestinian group first floated the idea of a truce in a phone call to an Israeli TV reporter Tuesday from Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Hamas government in Gaza. The proposal was officially made Thursday though Egyptian mediators. Previous truces have been negotiated through Egyptian mediation, but none has held for long.

Israel’s official position is that it will not talk with Hamas unless the group renounces all violence, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and accepts previous peace agreements. Olmert’s office reiterated that stance Friday.

But Israeli defense officials said Friday that the government was examining the Hamas offer. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email