Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hamas,Islamic Jihad truce talks end without deal


Talks between Palestinian groups, Egyptian mediators on truce with Israel end without agreement, after factions demand Israel stop all raids in Gaza and West Bank, open border crossings

A new round of talks between Egypt and the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad ended on Thursday without agreement on striking a truce with Israel.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they rejected a ceasefire unless Israel stopped all raids in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, ended its Gaza blockade and reopened the coastal territory's border crossing "In Hamas we stressed our position that calm must be simultaneous, reciprocal and comprehensive," said Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha.

Over the past two weeks, Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have refrained from carrying out rocket attacks against Israel.

Israel, denying it is involved in ceasefire negotiations but saying it would have no reason to strike Hamas if salvoes ceased, has stopped targeting the group's Gaza militants in what appears to be a de facto truce between the two enemies.

'Lull must be comprehensive'
Islamic Jihad leader Khader Habib, whose group has continued to fire rockets at Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, told Reuters: "The Zionist occupation wanted calm to be limited to Gaza and we say any calm must be comprehensive and reciprocal."

Egypt, with US Blessing, has been trying to negotiate a cessation of hostilities between Israel and the militants from the Gaza Strip, territory Hamas Islamists seized in June from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' secular Fatah faction.

The latest truce talks, which also looked at the prospects of reopening the Rafah border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, were held on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing.

The talks were attended by Hamas official Jamal Abu Hashem and Khaled al-Batsh of Islamic Jihad.
General Mohamed Ibrahim, a senior aide to Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, and another unidentified official represented Egypt.

Both sides agreed to resume discussions but did not set a date for the next meeting, one source said.

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