Hamas is ready for a ceasefire with Israel if a Palestinian state is established, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech delivered Tuesday afternoon.
Haniyeh's speech dealt mainly with internal issues. He responded to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' call for elections in the Palestinian Authority and called for unity in the struggle against the occupation.
However, he also called for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. If this takes place, he clarified, he would be ready for a long-term ceasefire, which may even last 20 years.
Earlier, Abbas called on rival factions to honor a frayed two-day old ceasefire, as raging gun battles in the Gaza Strip claimed another six lives.
The clashes between loyalists of the ruling Islamist movement Hamas and partisans of Abbas's Fatah party have shattered a truce agreed on Sunday in a confrontation that has been escalating for weeks.
In a statement from his office, Abbas said Tuesday: "As president of the Palestinian people, I call on everyone without exception to cease the fire and the murders ... in order to save our unity.
"The agreement signed between the Palestinian factions should be applied on the ground, and Palestinian security forces should deploy in the streets in order to bring a halt to the actions of the combatants."
Haniyeh also called for an end to violence in the PA, saying that "in spite of the internal differences, in spite of the wounds resulting from these differences, and in spite of the recent days' pain – we will remain united in the face of the occupation, and our nation will not be involved in its internal struggles."
The Palestinian prime minister said in his speech that he has raised a sum of USD 700 million for the PA during his visit to the Arab world. He accused Abbas of contributing to the government's isolation.
According to Haniyeh, Abbas did not attend one government meeting for nine months and did not ask any Palestinian minister to accompany him on his tours or diplomatic meetings. Abbas' associates were also delaying a solution for the general strike in the Strip, he charged, adding that the Palestinian government's authorities are being expropriated.
"We don't have money, we don’t have authorities, and even the state TV is completely ignoring our activities," he claimed.
As for the unity government, Haniyeh noted that Fatah was the one to back down from all the clauses and understandings the government was to be based on.
He noted that every offer he made had been turned down "although we gave up the premiership, although we agreed to only nine government members out of 24, and although we agreed to remove all senior Hamas officials from the government. But after we did all this, Abbas' people introduced marginal issues which should not have prevented the government's establishment.
"In the last stage of the negotiations they introduced the issue of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, although this issue was separate and was discussed in separate channels."
In the speech, Haniyeh rejected the Palestinian president's call for elections, saying it was an illegal call. He referred to Abbas' remarks that they must return to the Palestinian people, as it is the source of authority.
"I wonder, Mr. President, why for 10 years you did not consider returning to the source of authority. Why were you so patient then and why aren't you today? Is our nation, which voted not such a long time ago, ready for elections so urgently? Are we returning to the people only when we like it and not returning to the people when we don’t like it?"
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also called on Palestinians to end violence and look into forming a government that wins international acceptance.
"The violence needs to stop. We hope that there will in fact be a ceasefire between the parties, that is very important," Rice said in an interview with al-Arabiya television made available to Reuters on Tuesday ahead of broadcast.
"The political crisis also has to be resolved and it needs to be resolved by the Palestinian people getting a government that can be acceptable internationally so that the difficulties that have been there in terms of resources for the Palestinians can be resolved," Rice added.
"The problem here is that the Hamas government has been unwilling to accept terms that would make it internationally acceptable," she said.
Asked if Washington endorses Abbas's call for an early election, Rice said: "This is something that I think Palestinians will decided, but he is the Palestinian leader elected by his people as president he has the will and the desire and in fact the obligation to help the Palestinian people find a way out of the crisis and so we will support in him as he tries to do that."
Rice said President Bush remains committed to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Meanwhile, another kidnapping incident of a Hamas activist took place in Hebron. Palestinian sources reported that gunmen abducted Muhammad al-Haruf, 40, who is considered a prominent Hamas member in the West Bank.
According to estimates, al-Haruf was kidnapped on the backdrop of the growing tension between Hamas and Fatah, which has now reached the West Bank.
AFP and Reuters contributed to the report