(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel has rejected an offer by Hamas to renew a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported Friday.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's office reportedly contacted a senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem through a third party before the cabinet decided on Wednesday to declare Gaza a "hostile territory."
After the cabinet decision, the source responded to Hamas's proposal, saying Israel would not hold talks with the group at this time.
On Thursday, Haniyeh met with representatives of the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza and asked them to abide by any cease-fire agreement Hamas would strike with Israel. The groups expressed willingness to assent, but wanted to wait for Israel's response.
Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin said Friday that if Israel has in fact rejected Hamas's proposed cease-fire, it is an irresponsible decision both for the residents of the western Negev and for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.
"Israel has no other real solution to these problems, and it must reach a cease-fire with Hamas," Beilin continued.
"Israel can do so through a third party, parallel to the diplomatic process with the PLO," Beilin said.
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem denied on Friday a report in Asharq alawsat that government officials had approached Hamas leaders via a Norwegian proxy and proposed starting direct talks, Army Radio reported.
Diplomatic officials told the station that Israel was not holding any negotiations with Hamas.