'You have 24 hours.' Barak
Photo: Ariel Hermoni
Qassam rocket-launcher
Photo: Reuters

Barak: We'll open Gaza crossings if Hamas holds its fire

Armed Palestinian groups say agreed to Israeli proposal it would open Gaza crossings after calm is maintained for 24 hours; Jerusalem officials continue to reject claim Strip in midst of humanitarian crisis

Ehud Barak's office said Sunday that if Hamas upholds the ceasefire and refrain from launching Qassam rockets for 24 consecutive hours, the defense minister will instruct the security establishment to open the goods crossings between Israel and Gaza.


Hamas said earlier in the day that it had accepted an official ceasefire proposal from Israel, which the Islamist group said was relayed via Egyptian mediators.


Sources in Jerusalem stressed that prior to opening the crossings Barak will consult with senior security personnel, including IDF and Shin Bet officials.


Meanwhile, Israel is continuing to deny that reports coming from Gaza according to which the coastal enclave is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. "The situation isn’t simple, and we are permitting the transfer of food, medicine and humanitarian aid so as not to harm the civilian population in Gaza," an official said.


"The opening of the crossings is dependent on Hamas and the terror groups, who are responsible for the civilian population," he said.


The London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Sunday that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine agreed to an Israeli offer to stabilize the truce in exchange for the reopening of the crossings.


'We want to renegotiate ceasefire'

According to the report, while all of the armed Palestinian factions agreed to abide by the fresh agreement, they also maintain the right to respond to "any Israeli violation".


Despite Hamas' efforts to quell the rocket fire on Israel, a Qassam fired from northern Gaza land in Israel's western Negev region Sunday afternoon. There were no reports of injuries or damage in the attack.


Senior Hamas figures, including Ismail Haniyeh said Egypt's mediation efforts have succeeded and that the ceasefire has apparently been reinstated.


Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said Egypt launched its mediation efforts following a phone call from Barak's office to Cairo, stating that Israel was prepared to restore the truce and open the crossings as early as Monday.


However, other Hamas sources stressed that the ceaefire will not be renewed automatically after it expires December 19.


"We will demand to renegotiate the ceasefire's terms so Israel will not have the authority to close the crossings when the Palestinians are preserving the calm, as was the case this time around," a Hamas figure told Ynet. 


Ali Waked contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 11.23.08, 22:34
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