Israel Denies Talks with Hamas

Israel said Monday it was not engaged in talks with Hamas following a flurry of media reports suggesting the two sides were discussing a long-term ceasefire.

“Israel is officially clarifying that it is not holding any meetings with Hamas, neither directly, nor via other countries or intermediaries,” the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Arab and Turkish media have in recent weeks carried reports, that were picked up by Israeli media, claiming Israel and the Palestinian movement that rules the Gaza Strip were holding talks.

According to the reports, the talks were aimed at reaching an eight-year or 10-year truce, with Israel removing its blockade on the coastal Palestinian territory.

A 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in July-August 2014 killed about 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers, and destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes in Gaza.

Israel has imposed a crippling nine-year blockade on the impoverished territory.

The reports on truce talks were fueled by recent meetings between Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal with Turkish and Saudi officials.

The statement from Netanyahu’s office also addressed reports that an agreement with Hamas would enable normalizing diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey.

Relationships between the former allies soured in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turks after storming the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara en route to Gaza.

Israel apologized in 2013 and talks have been ongoing to determine compensation for the families, but there has been no agreement yet, with Turkey conditioning a deal the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

“As for the relations with Turkey — the agreement is still far off,” Netanyahu’s office said.

Israel has recently accused Turkey of harboring a Hamas member who they claim orchestrated attacks against Israelis.

(Ma’an)

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