Hamas would consider renewing a lapsed truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip, but wants guarantees the Jewish state will stop raids and keep border crossings open for supplies of aid and fuel, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
Gaza's leaders had initially ruled out extending the six-month-old, Egyptian-brokered truce, which they declared dead last Friday.
But spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas and other Gaza factions were now prepared to study offers to renew the accord.
Gazans suffer the hardships due to Israel's closure of the crossings in the coastal enclave, home to 1.5 million people, forcing the main power plant to shut down and international aid agencies to stop food distribution.
Hamas's apparent shift came two days before scheduled talks in Cairo between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a top candidate, in next February's election.
It also followed an agreement between Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group to temporarily stop resistance activities against killings at the urging of the Egyptians.
Egyptian officials provided few details about what might be discussed on Thursday. "The Egyptians want to raise the whole question of the truce and to prevent Israel from invading Gaza," said one Israeli official.
Israeli defence officials had threatened to start targeting a wider-range of assassinations against Hamas leaders and raids into Gaza strip.
Such an operation could result in heavy casualties on both sides, fuel a major humanitarian crisis and spark an international outcry against Israel.
Likewise, Barhoum, while holding out hope of renewing the truce, derided Israeli talk of an extension as misinformation aimed at "throwing dust in our eyes".
"The region is heading towards an escalation, not calm," Barhoum said.
Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said "a final decision would be made after the 24-hour calm declared on Monday ends."
"If there is positive progress between the two sides by the end of the day, the suspension will continue", Zahhar said in an interview with Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
Livni said would topple Hamas if she gets elected on Feb. 10. Her main rival for the premiership, right-wing Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, has made a similar word.
Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2008, 16:58