OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israel rejected on Friday, April 25, a Hamas offer for a six-month truce in the Gaza Strip that could be extended to the occupied West Bank.
"Hamas is biding time in order to rearm and regroup," government spokesman David Baker said, reported Haaretz.
He said Israel would halt attacks in Gaza if rocket fire from the territory was ceased.
"[But] Israel will continue to act to protect its citizens," he said in apparent reference to Israeli air strikes and commando raids in the strip.
Hamas on Thursday agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza first to be extended to the West Bank within six months.
"The movement has agreed for a period of calm in Gaza in the framework of a national consensus, which would be extended to the West Bank after six months," Hamas said in a statement read by former foreign minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar in Cairo.
Israel has rejected Hamas proposals for a truce including an end to rocket fire into Israel and to Israeli assaults.
Israel and its ally the United States refuse to deal with Hamas before it accepts the Quartet’s conditions on recognizing Israel and renounce "violence".
Hamas said that the ceasefire offer must include the lifting of Israel’s crippling siege on Gaza, home to 1.6 million Palestinians.
"The period of calm must be reciprocal and concurrent; there must be a lifting of the blockade and the opening of the border crossings, including the Rafah crossing, to take place when the calming takes effect," said Zahar.
The Hamas leader said other Palestinian resistance factions, including Islamic Jihad and Damascus-based groups had preliminarily approved the ceasefire offer.
He said the factions would be invited to Egypt to discuss the offer to ensure Palestinian consensus.
"It was agreed with (Egyptian intelligence chief) Minister Suleiman to invite the Palestinian factions next Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the paper presented by our side," Zahar said.
The Egyptian official would then contact the Israelis to ensure that they are committed to the truce and to fix a date for it to start, he added.
The Hamas offer also states that if Israel were not to accept a ceasefire, Egypt would open the Rafah border crossing, Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world.
Israel has been closing the Gaza Strip’s exits to the outside world since Hamas took control of the territory last June after routing rival Fatah.
It has completely locked down the coastal area since January, causing its sole power plant to shut down for lack of fuel.
The United Nations stopped distributing aid in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, April 24, after running out of fuel over the Israeli siege.
"We have just stopped the distribution of all food aid to 650,000 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip because of the lack of fuel in our storage in Gaza," said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) office in Gaza.
"We also stopped transporting students and officials in the Gaza Strip. Not a liter of fuel came from Israel."
(IslamOnline.net and agencies)