Hamas officials: Cease-fire talks have failed

Sources blame Israeli conditions, tell 'Post' Egyptian pressure postponed announcement of failure.

hamas rally 224 88 (photo credit:)
hamas rally 224 88
(photo credit: )
Hamas said on Wednesday that Israel's conditions for a truce were making it extremely difficult to reach an agreement, with some saying the talks were already dead. The Hamas officials who arrived in Cairo earlier this week to discuss reaching a truce with Israel said they were now "less optimistic" about striking a deal. Hamas leaders were expected to hold a conference late Tuesday night to declare the failure of the truce talks, but were forced to call it off under pressure from the Egyptian government, sources close to the Islamist group told The Jerusalem Post. According to a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, the Egyptians may announce the failure of the truce talks in the wake of Hamas's refusal to accept the Israeli conditions. "Israel wants a free truce," he said. "They don't want to offer anything in return. They want an end to the rocket attacks in return for an end to their aggression." The official said Hamas was demanding the immediate reopening of all of the Gaza Strip's border crossings and a halt to IDF operations. He noted Israel had made it clear to the Egyptians that the borders would be reopened only after a truce went into effect and was not violated by any of the Palestinian factions. Moreover, Israel was conditioning the reopening of the border crossings on the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, the official added. He said Hamas had rejected the conditions. Another Hamas official accused Israel of placing "obstacles" on the road to achieving a truce. "Israel's conditions are completely unacceptable," he said. "These conditions are clearly aimed at foiling Egypt's efforts." The Hamas delegation to the Cairo talks is scheduled to return to Syria and the Gaza Strip Thursday. The delegation, which held talks with Egyptian General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, is headed by Musa Abu Marzouk and Mahmoud Zahar. Hamas leaders were apparently prepared to call an end to the talks after again hearing that Israel was willing to permit the Palestinians to reopen the Rafah border crossing only under the terms of a 2005 US-brokered agreement that placed the terminal under the control of forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. An IDF soldier was lightly wounded Wednesday when two Kassam rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Zikim area south of Ashkelon. The soldier was evacuated to the city's Barzilai Hospital for treatment. Shortly after the rockets were fired, an IAF helicopter fired a missile at the Kassam squad traveling in a car in Gaza. The IDF said it hit the squad. Palestinians reported that five people were wounded in the strike, including a five-month-old baby girl. Hamas claimed the wounded were civilian bystanders. Earlier Wednesday, Hamas said one of its members was killed on a "holy mission." The term is used when a Hamas militant dies, either when mishandling explosives or in a premature explosion intended for an attack against Israel. Palestinian terrorists fired two mortar shells at southern Israel from the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The shells landed near the perimeter fence, causing no casualties or damage. Gaza gunmen also fired at IDF Engineering Corps soldiers carrying out work on the security fence. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. In northern Gaza, IDF sappers carried out a controlled explosion on a bomb that was planted next to the fence. The terror cell that placed the explosive device was hit in an IAF strike on Tuesday, the army said. Also Wednesday, an IDF elite unit arrested a Fatah fugitive in Ramallah. He was detained for interrogation. Despite the ongoing attacks from Gaza, Israel transferred another 75 trucks of food and other humanitarian supplies to the Strip on Wednesday via the Sufa border terminal. Jerusalem Post staff and AP contributed to ths report.