Mashaal says Hamas willing to consider truce

In message to Arab rulers, Hamas leader defends Kassams but says his organization examining calm.

Mashaal 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Mashaal 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Exiled Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, in a communiqué to Arab leaders, expressed his willingness to seriously consider the possibility of a comprehensive calm with Israel, according to a report Friday in the London-based daily Al Hayat, which said that the message was timed to coincide with the Arab League summit scheduled to take place in Syria's capital over the weekend. According to the report, Mashaal defended the firing of Kassam and Grad rockets at Israel, a practice which was criticized by some of the Arab leaders, as well as by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who called them "pointless." "There is no escaping the truth that the rockets in Gaza and the limited weaponry in the hands of the resistance are meant for defending our people and our land and are a response to the occupation and aggression," Mashaal wrote. However, he added, "all of the factions of the Palestinian resistance have expressed their willingness to seriously examine the issue of a calm, provided that it is comprehensive, concurrent and mutual." Hamas and Islamic Jihad have informed Egypt that they are only prepared to accept a truce with Israel on condition that it includes the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip, sources close to the Palestinian groups said Thursday. The two groups told Egyptian security officials during a meeting in Sinai on Thursday that they wanted a "comprehensive and mutual" truce as soon as possible, according to the sources. The Egyptians have worked out a truce proposal that also calls for reopening the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai and partially lifting the blockade on the Strip, according to the sources, who added that the initiative also called on Israel to refrain from targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders. Thursday's meeting apparently ended without an agreement after the Egyptians told Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives that Israel had rejected their demand to include the West Bank in the truce. A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post that his movement was not opposed to the presence of European monitors and forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Rafah crossing. Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report