Haniyeh: No cease-fire without W. Bank

Comes on eve of Hamas response to Egypt's offer; Defense official: Barak likely to accept truce.

haniyeh finger 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
haniyeh finger 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas has not changed its position regarding a cease-fire with Israel and continues to insist that it include the West Bank in addition to the Gaza Strip, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday. Haniyeh's statement came on the eve of Hamas's intention to present its final answer to an Egyptian proposal for a truce with Israel. "Any truce must be mutual and comprehensive," Haniyeh said. "It must include the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." Earlier reports in the Arab media had suggested that Hamas was prepared to accept a truce only in the Gaza Strip in return for the partial reopening of the Rafah border crossing and a halt to Israel's military operations. Haniyeh said that a truce would be contingent on ending Israel's "aggression" against the Palestinians and reopening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip. He added that a truce also required the agreement of all the armed Palestinian groups, and not only Hamas. Haniyeh said that a senior Hamas delegation was expected to arrive in Cairo Thursday to present Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman with the movement's response to Cairo's truce initiative. "The ball will then be in the Israeli court," he said. "Our main goal is to stop the aggression, lift the siege and reopen all the border crossings. We don't strike deals behind closed doors or under the table. We say the same things in public and behind closed doors." Haniyeh reiterated Hamas's readiness to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, but without recognizing Israel's right to exist. "This is not a new policy," he stressed. "[Slain Hamas spiritual leader] Ahmed Yassin said at the beginning of the intifada that our main goal was to end the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, establish a state and then have a long-term hudna [temporary truce] with Israel." Haniyeh said Hamas was prepared to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip without any settlements and after the right of return for Palestinian refugees has been achieved. " At the same time, we won't recognize Israel," he said. "This is our political program. We won't give up one inch of the land of Palestine. The problem is not Hamas or other Palestinian groups, but Israel that does not want a Palestinian state." In Israel, a top defense official warned against agreeing to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza but said it was likely that Defense Minister Ehud Barak would accept the terms. The official said that the assessment in the defense establishment was that Hamas would announce on Thursday that its decision is to accept the offer and agree to a hudna, which would last several months in the Gaza Strip. Israel, the official said, was entering the cease-fire in a weak position and after Hamas had several operational successes in recent weeks in attacks against IDF units along the Gaza border. He said that Israel would have been better off reaching a cease-fire from a position of power, like after the IDF's Operation Hot Winter - when 120 Palestinians were killed - in early March. "Hamas has a lot to gain from a cease-fire," the official said. "Under the current circumstances it is not clear that we also do." One of Israel's primary conditions for the cease-fire was the release of kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Schalit. Israel's other conditions included a commitment by Egypt to crack down on the smuggling into Gaza from the Sinai Desert.