Hamas expects Gaza truce within 2 days, lifting blockade

Hamas official said that the agreement was not linked to any possible prisoner exchange deal with the Jewish state.

Hamas expects Gaza truce within 2 days, lifting blockade

Hamas said on Thursday it expected an Egyptian-mediated truce with Israel in Gaza to be announced in two or three days.

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouq said the truce, which would last for 18 months, would ensure the opening of all commercial crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

"It will be in a short period, God willing," he told reporters. "Within two days". Taher al-Nono, a member of Hamas delegation in Cairo, had earlier told Reuters an agreement was expected within three days.

Nono said the agreement would ensure the end of ongoing Israeli attacks and Palestinian response in the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave and Israel.

"Most of the obstacles that prevented us from reaching an agreement were resolved," Nono said.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment.

Egypt said earlier on Thursday it would announce "positive" results from the talks in the coming hours.

The longer-term truce deal would take the place of a shaky Jan. 18 ceasefire, declared separately by both sides, that ended Israel's 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Israel launched on Dec. 27 a massive offensive in Gaza, killing more than 1300 Palestinians, a third of them children, and wounded at least 5300. Fourteen Israelis have been also killed.

Egypt has been criticised in the Arab world for not opening its Rafah border crossing with Gaza for normal traffic and for its limited humanitarian operation during the offensive.

Abu Marzouq said there would be measures "next March that would make it easier for our Palestinian people to move through the crossing". He did not elaborate.

He said the agreement was not linked to any possible prisoner exchange deal with the Jewish state that would see the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Palestinian fighters since 2006.

"This is a separate issue that has no relation with the truce," he said. "Gilad Shalit will be (released) in exchange for Palestinian captives." A source said linking a deal to exchange prisoners would have "complicated" the talks.

Hamas has demanded Israel free 1,400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. Diplomats said Israel would most probably free closer to 1,000.

Hamas has repeatedly said it is seeking guarantees that Israel will lift the heavy blockade it has imposed on Gaza after Hamas took the Strip under its control in 2007.

Abu Marzouq said Egypt was the main guarantor of the deal.

"Israel has no other choice but to comply," he said.

Egypt has also invited all Palestinian groups for talks on national reconciliation in Cairo on Feb. 22.

Reuters

Last Mod: 13 Şubat 2009, 16:43
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