Hamas is prepared to discuss a ceasefire deal that would include kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Hamas leader Salah Bardawil told the Palestinian Maan News Agency Tuesday. He also said Israel had agreed to allow 75% of previously prohibited goods into Gaza in exchange for his release.
Earlier, following a round of talks in Cairo, Hamas announced that Egypt is considering opening its border crossing with the Gaza Strip to allow in reconstruction materials blocked by Israel after its 22-day offensive.
Egypt is trying to broker a longer-term truce in the Gaza Strip under which both Israel and Hamas would hold their fire.
“Hamas dealt with the Egyptian proposal regarding the ceasefire with Israel positively. However, Hamas asked for explanations of some Israeli proposals, especially objection to entry of certain material to the Gaza Strip which Israel claims are used in making weapons,” Bardawil told Ma’an.
“We have no objection to ceasefire in exchange for lifting the siege and opening crossing points. We don’t oppose addressing Shalit case in tandem with ceasefire negotiations, but we asked for explanations about the nature of this material Israel won’t let in,” he said.
Bardawil said Hamas would agree to halt its rocket fire towards Israel, but that “Hamas won’t agree on stopping smuggling weapons into Gaza because that would mean the end of resistance.”
Hamas has demanded that Israel lift its blockade of Gaza, but Israel so far has balked at letting in materials like glass, steel and cement needed for reconstruction.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the Islamist group and Egyptian officials were discussing the possibility that Cairo would open the Rafah crossing on Gaza's southern border to allow in reconstruction materials and vehicles, as well as shelters for those made homeless by the Israeli bombardment.
Barhoum said another round of talks over the cease-fire would convene later on Tuesday night.
In addition to trying to extend the shaky cease-fire, Egypt hoped to broker a reconciliation deal between Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip and the secular Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Western-backed government is based in the West Bank.
Cairo has proposed a meeting of the factions on February 22. But Barhoum said Hamas was demanding that a committee be set up first to free "political prisoners" held by the rival groups to prepare the ground for reconciliation talks.