Amos Gilad
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Weapons-smuggling tunnel
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

Report: Israel wants month-long truce with Hamas

Jerusalem to declare official ceasefire with Palestinians should 'trial period' pass without additional rocket attacks from Gaza and Palestinians refrain from digging arms-smuggling tunnels, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports

Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad has relayed to Egypt Israel's request for a month-long unofficial ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza before reaching a final decision on the matter, London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Tuesday.


According to Al-Hayat, also published in London, Gilad conveyed the request for the 30-day 'trial period' during his meeting with the head of Egyptian intelligence, General Omar Suleiman, on Sunday.


According to a senior Palestinian source who asked to remain anonymous, Israel said it would officially announce that it accepts Egypt's call for a ceasefire should the trial period pass without Palestinian attacks from Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has remained in close contact with Egypt to make certain that an official truce would include the West Bank as well, the source said.


A source in Cairo said Gilad conditioned Israel's agreement to a ceasefire on "an end to the Palestinian rocket fire and an end to the digging of weapons-smuggling tunnels".


The source estimated that an official ceasefire agreement won't be finalized before the Arab League summit in Damascus, scheduled for the end of March.


'Important trials still ahead'

He noted that “following the Arab summit in Damascus, greater emphasis will be placed on the Palestinian problem instead of on Lebanon.”


This veiled condemnation of Syria comes on the heels of additional, and far more direct, criticism leveled at Damascus by Cairo.


According to some Egyptian officials, Syria is continually prodding Hamas to keep up its rocket attacks on Israel in order to detract attention from the ongoing crisis in Lebanon. Several weeks ago, furthermore, Egypt accused Syria of encouraging Hamas to breach the border fence between Egypt and Gaza in retaliation for Egypt’s involvement in Lebanese elections; a move viewed by Syria as unwarranted meddling.


Abbas said on Monday that Israel and Hamas were "agreed in principle" on a truce that would end Palestinian rocket attacks and lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip.


"Hamas also wants to protect its leaders and those of Islamic Jihad from the Israelis, and I think Israel agrees on that or has already agreed," he said, quoted by the royal palace after talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman.


"With the developments in Egypt, I think there is an agreement in principle on that and a deal might be reached in the coming few days," Abbas said in the statement.


Hamas officials have expressed hope that talks on a possible truce with Israel would eventually result in the reopening of the Gaza border crossings and the subsequent easing of the economic siege.


"Following their failed operation in north Gaza the Israelis realized that they cannot expect any concessions on our part," a source in the Islamist group told Ynet, "therefore, we are seeing a willingness by Israel to hold talks on all the issues, including the border crossings."


Jerusalem has yet to confirm the ceasefire talks, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that "whoever thinks that this is the end of the story and that there's already a truce is wrong… we haven't finished anything and the important trials are still ahead."


AFP contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 03.11.08, 11:51
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