Senior officials in the Islamic group Hamas
are indicating a willingness to negotiate a deal for a long-term truce with Israel as long as the borders of Gaza are opened to the rest of the world.
"We want to be part of the international community," Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad told The Associated Press at the Gaza-Egypt border, where he was coordinating Arab aid shipments. "I think Hamas has no interest now to increase the number of crises in Gaza or to challenge the world."
The militants appear to be in the throes of an internal power struggle between hard-liners and pragmatists. Which group comes out on top will likely depend on who is able to garner the most benefits in postwar Gaza.
With hawks urging more violence, the window of opportunity to boost the voices of relative moderation is likely to be short.
"We won this war," said Hamas politician Mushir Al-Masri. "Why should we give in to pressure from anyone?"
Al-Masri spoke to the AP while standing next to a chair that used to serve as his seat in the Palestinian parliament, now reduced to rubble by Israeli bombing. Surrounding him were cracked cement, broken bricks, shattered glass and microphones covered in ash.
Yet even al-Masri, a staunch hard-liner, sounded a conciliatory note.
"We have our hands open to any country ... to open a dialogue without conditions," he said — clarifying that does not include Israel.
Israel's refusal to engage Hamas is based on the fact that Hamas refuses to recognize its right to exist. However, the three Hamas leaders interviewed said they would accept statehood in just the West Bank and Gaza and would give up their "resistance" against Israel if that were achieved.
"We accept a state in the '67 borders," said Hamad. "We are not talking about the destruction of Israel."
One hardline Hamas politician, Yehiel El Abadsa, said his group should not reconcile with Fatah and that Hamas "will be the ones to rebuild Gaza."
That position may well put him at odds with the majority of Gaza's 1.4 million inhabitants, who seem to be clamoring for an end to the divisions that are distancing their dreams for a state of their own.
"Even if money falls from the sky and we are still divided like this, we'll never accomplish anything," said 55-year-old Mohammed Abed Rabbo, sitting outside his bombed-out house in northern Gaza.