A six-month “period of quiet” in Gaza, has been proposed by the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas (photo from lexpress.fr). And it says the truce could then be extended to the West Bank.
Mahmoud Zahhar, former Palestinian foreign minister, said this truce would have to be mutual and include the lifting of an Israeli blockade of Gaza.
David Baker, an Israeli spokesman told the Reuters news agency that the proposal is a ruse to allow Hamas to “re-arm and re-group”.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, two Israeli security guards have been shot dead. To Israeli military, the men were screening workers at the Nitzanei Shalom industrial zone, near the northern town of Tulkarm, when a Palestinian militant approached them, opened fire at close range and then fled.
Located on the Palestinian side of the West Bank, the industrial zone, contains five Israeli-owned factories that employ local Palestinians.
The Israeli government condemned the shootings and said there were a “clear example of extremism and terrorism by those seeking to foil any prospects for advancing peace”.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group said they had carried out the attack jointly, and an Islamic Jihad spokesman told the Associated Press that the gunman had been lightly wounded.
Mr Zahhar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, announced his group’s proposal for a conditional truce at talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo.
Mr Suleiman has been the main point of contact between Hamas and Israel.
“The truce must be mutual and simultaneous and the blockade must be lifted and the crossing points opened” said Mr Zahhar. He added that it included the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
Humanitarian assistance operations halted in Gaza
Even though Palestinian military temporarily breached the crossing earlier this year, Rafah has mostly been closed since June, when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip. During the breach hundreds of thousands of Gazans went to Egypt to buy food and other essentials.
Even if previously, Hamas had said that a truce should begin at the same time in both Gaza and the West Bank. Now they say that the truce would start in Gaza and then it“could be expanded to the West Bank and would be set at six months”, said Mr Zahhar.
He also said that Palestinian factions would be invited to discuss the proposal next week by the Egyptian mediators.
Mr Zahhar added that now it was up to Israel wether or not to approve the ceasefire. “The ball is in the Israeli court.” And he warned that if Israel doesn’t comply, “then it will be our right to defend our people in all legitimate ways.”
However the Israeli government dismissed the offer. “There would be no need for Israel’s defensive actions if Hamas would cease and desist from committing terrorist attacks on Israelis.”
With the Israeli military carrying out raids to target Hamas members and Hamas firing rockets at nearby Israeli towns, Gaza has been a focus of recent violence. And since Hamas took the control of the Gaza Strip, Israel has all but sealed off the area.
On Thursday, the UN said that it had halted humanitarian assistance operations in Gaza, as it had run out of fuel for its vehicles.
Israel imposed sanctions, in an attempt to curtail rocket fired by Hamas, and they have caused shortages. But Israel says Hamas is preventing fuel distribution.
More than 80% of Gaza’s population relies on aid, with UN food hand-outs going to about 1.1 million people – many of them being children.