Mashaal: Cease-fire is a 'tactic'

Group waiting for Israeli response; says Schalit matter postponed due to "Israeli stubbornness."

mashaal 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
mashaal 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas is still waiting for an official response from Israel to the group's readiness to declare a six-month truce, Hamas leaders said Saturday. They said the Egyptian authorities, which have been mediating between Israel and Hamas, have yet to come back with an official response to the truce initiative. In an interview on pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television Mashaal said that Hamas was ready to cooperate but added that "it is a tactic in conducting the struggle. ... It is normal for any resistance that operates in its people's interest ... to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit. ... The battle is to be run this way and Hamas is known for that." He also warned of an explosion of violence in Gaza if Israel rejected the truce. "Hamas has asked the Egyptians for a document containing Israel's commitment to abide by the truce," Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told reporters in Qatar. "On the basis of this document, Hamas will decide whether to continue with the truce or reject it." Mashaal said the truce was Egypt's idea and that Hamas would agree to it only if Israel complied with certain conditions. "Hamas did not initiate the period of calm," he said. "It came from the Egyptians." According to Mashaal, the cease-fire proposal was presented after Israel's attempt to invade Gaza failed. He said that "Hamas will accept the Egyptian offer of a period of calm as a strong move and not a weak one." Hamas is also hoping that Egypt would persuade Israel to reopen the Rafah border crossing if Israel fails to accept the truce initiative. Mashaal warned that failure to reopen the borders would lead to an "explosion" in the Gaza Strip. "Our people will explode in the face of all those responsible for the siege," he said. "We have shown that we can surprise when we want." Asked if the threat was also directed against Egypt, Mashaal said the Palestinians had no intention to target the Egyptians. He also said that Hamas would not agree to a unilateral cease-fire with Israel, stressing that any truce should be mutual." "Hamas has accepted the Egyptian initiative," a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said over the weekend. "Now the Egyptians have no excuse to continue the closure of the border crossing. They must go and talk to the Israelis about this issue." He said Hamas representatives who visited Cairo last week received assurances from the Egyptians that the border crossing would be reopened once Hamas accepted the truce initiative. "We are waiting for the Egyptians who are waiting for a response from the Israelis on this matter," he added. "As far as Hamas is concerned, there is no reason why the Rafah border crossing should remain closed." Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, said he and his colleagues presented the Egyptians with evidence showing that some Palestinian Authority leaders have been playing a role in keeping the blockade on the Gaza Strip. "We showed them written documents proving that these officials were responsible for the continued siege against our people," he said. "We demanded that the Egyptians reopen the borders regardless of what the Palestinian Authority says ." The Egyptians have summoned representatives of other Palestinian factions to Cairo this week for consultations on the latest truce initiative. Among those invited are Islamic Jihad, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Egyptians were hoping to convince all the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to join Hamas in accepting the truce with Israel. He added that in the absence of an official response from Israel, Hamas would continue to carry out "resistance attacks." Also speaking on other topics, Mashaal referred to the possibility of Israel withdrawing from the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria, and commented that this would affect Damascus-based Hamas leadership. However, he believes that Israel's proposal to withdraw from the Golan Heights "is not serious, and surveys that indicate that most Israelis are against withdrawal prove this." He added that "the matter of [kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad] Schalit has been postponed due to political considerations. There is nothing new on the matter as a result of Israeli stubbornness." Mashaal hinted that the Palestinian Authority is hindering the matter, stating that "we have concluded that there are factors in the area that are not interested in the matter so that Israel will not free Hamas ministers [prisoners held in Israel], and so as not to affect negotiations between Israel and Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]."