Officials: Hamas ready to halt rockets

PA to "Post": Group worried by Israeli threats to target Haniyeh and Mashaal.

Kassam good 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 1)
Kassam good 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 1)
Israel's threat to target senior Hamas leaders in response to the Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza has prompted the group to agree to a unilateral cease-fire with Israel, Palestinian Authority officials said Wednesday. "Hamas wants to stop the Kassam rockets. They are especially worried about reports that Israel may assassinate [PA Prime Minister] Ismail Haniyeh and [Hamas chief] Khaled Mashaal," the officials told The Jerusalem Post. The officials were speaking shortly after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Haniyeh met in Gaza City to discuss the possibility of declaring a unilateral truce with Israel. Journalists were not allowed to cover the meeting, which was held under tight security. "At first, Haniyeh did not want to attend the meeting because of Israeli threats to kill him," said one PA official. "The venue and time of the meeting were only agreed upon at the last minute for security reasons. Hamas is taking the Israeli threats very seriously." Muhammad Nazzal, a senior Hamas official in Syria, said his movement was taking the Israeli threats "in a very serious manner," adding, "These are real and dangerous threats. The Zionist entity has long been practicing state terror. This is a bloody and murderous entity that wants to assassinate an elected prime minister." Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel also expressed concern over the Israeli threats against Haniyeh and Mashaal. He confirmed that Haniyeh had postponed his meeting with Abbas several times because of the threats. "We don't have Arab or Western assurances that Israel won't try to assassinate the prime minister," he said, warning that the Palestinians' response would be "very painful." According to another PA official, Haniyeh made it clear during Wednesday's meeting that Hamas was prepared to halt the firing of Kassam rockets "if Israel stops its aggression on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank." Abbas, for his part, urged Haniyeh to do his utmost to avoid providing Israel with an excuse to launch a massive military operation in the Gaza Strip. Abbas and Haniyeh agreed to form a joint Fatah-Hamas force in the Strip to implement a cease-fire with Israel and to enforce law and order. Fatah and Hamas representatives are scheduled to meet in Cairo soon to discuss ways of ending their disputes and preventing another round of violence between the two parties. The meeting has been called by Egyptian General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has been mediating between Fatah and Hamas for two years. Abbas later met with leaders of several Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and urged them to agree to a cease-fire with Israel. The PA official said all the faction leaders expressed readiness to stop the rocket attacks if Israel halted military operations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. "The threats to kill the leaders have not fallen on deaf ears," he said. "They know that Israel is capable of reaching each one of them."