Hamas members at an anti-Israel rally in Rafah in southern Gaza, November 13, 2014. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli and Hamas officials denied on Monday a report that Hamas had offered Israel a protracted truce in return for ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
According to the report on the Walla website, senior Hamas officials met with Western diplomats – including outgoing UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry and the Swiss consul to the Palestinian Authority, Paul Garnier, who is one of the Western officials who meets regularly with Hamas – about the hudna (temporary truce) and indicated interest in a cease-fire of at least five years in exchange for Israel’s lifting the Gaza blockade.
The report stated that a number of understandings were even reached on the nature of the cease-fire.
But Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, said flatly that the report was untrue, adding that Hamas did not discuss the issue of a truce with anyone.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri also denied the report. He said that some international parties had made such a proposal to Hamas. However, Hamas never replied to the proposal, he claimed.
“This is an issue that should be dealt with through discussions and national consensus,” Abu Zuhri said.
On the Israeli side, one government source said the Prime Minister’s Office is “not familiar” with the report, and “no one has approached us with anything.”
The official said that a prerequisite to any long-term solution to the situation in Gaza is the demilitarization of the coastal strip.
He added that conversations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his international interlocutors about Gaza, including Quartet envoy Tony Blair, focus on the reconstruction of Gaza and the humanitarian issues there.
Blair visited Gaza last month but did not meet with Hamas officials.
Serry, who is winding up seven years as the UN’s special envoy, fueled speculation on the possibility of a protracted cease-fire when he issued a statement last week following his last visit to Gaza.
He said that the rehabilitation of the area “will take years, and for that we need time and a commitment from all concerned parties for a long-term ‘reconstruction hudna,’ under the umbrella of the GNC [Palestinian government of national consensus], to which all Palestinian factions should be committed.”
Serry said that during his visit to Gaza, “I have been urging my counterparts in Gaza to commit themselves to what will be needed from their side – a multiyear freeze to military activities above and below ground. I have received indications that they are willing to consider this, provided the other parties respond in further opening crossings to enable Gaza’s full and accelerated recovery and reconstruction.”