Hamas Leader Says Israel Blocks Gaza Truce

Hamas will reject a long-term truce with Israel being mediated by Egypt unless the deal includes lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Friday.

Addressing a rally in Damascus, Meshaal said Hamas has only received "vague" proposals from Egypt without an Israeli commitment to lift the siege, which Hamas regards as an illegal collective punishment on Gaza’s 1.5 million population.

"The enemy has yet to offer a lifting of the blockade and a reopening of the border crossings. They have given no guarantee and we will not agree to any truce except in exchange for a lifting of the blockade and a reopening of the crossings."

Meshaal, whose speech was aired on Syrian state television, told more than 1,000 supporters that Hamas emerged "victorious" from Israel’s deadly offensive that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and wounded 5,000 others.

"It is the first real war that the Palestinians won," he said.
Resuming Cairo Talks

Hamas officials are due to return to Cairo on Saturday to give a final reply to proposals to reach an 18-month truce with Israel after its invasion of Gaza, which was halted last month.

Egypt has been brokering indirect talks with Israel and the Palestinians on consolidating the ceasefires into a lasting truce.

Egyptian state news agency MENA reported on Thursday that a Hamas delegation was due on Saturday to give to Egyptian mediators a final response on a proposed long-term truce.

Hamas officials from both Gaza and the exiled leadership in Damascus held two days of talks in Cairo with Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s pointman for Israel-Palestinian affairs.
Slamming PLO

Meshaal also slammed anew the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is headed by his rival Mahmud Abbas, who is also president of the Palestinian Authority, saying its "institutions have lost their legitimacy years ago."

Last week Meshaal said the PLO — the historic Palestinian umbrella that does not include Hamas and the Islamic Jihad — had become obsolete and called for "a new, national authority."

"Institutions that are opposed to resistance … are illegal," Meshaal told Friday’s crowds in Damascus.

"How much longer must we wait for you to reform the PLO and to allow in Hamas and the Islamic Jihad," Meshaal said.

His remarks put the spotlight again on the protracted Hamas-Fatah feud, which has prevailed since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after ferocious street battles with Abbas loyalists.

Last Sunday, in a reference to Meshaal, Abbas ruled out talks with any group that does recognize the PLO’s legitimacy.

(Alarabiya.net and Agencies)

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