Middle East

Hamas commits to finding truce, wants blockade lifted

Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal addresses the 8th General Conference of Sudanese Islamic Movement in Khartoum November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

CAIRO: Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said Monday his movement is committed to efforts to secure a truce with Israel, but insisted the Jewish state must lift its six-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"We are committed to a ceasefire, but Israel must stop its aggression," Meshaal said.

Nearly 100 people have been killed in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip since Israel began a massive air campaign aimed at halting rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday.

The Hamas chief, who was in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials who are trying to broker a ceasefire, said Israel had sought a truce.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Netanyahu called the US, Europe and Egypt asking for a truce," Meshaal told a news conference.

"We are not against a calming, but we want our demands... to end the thuggery, to end the aggression and to lift the blockade," said the Hamas chief.

Meshaal said his Islamist movement would reject any Israeli preconditions for a ceasefire because "they started the aggression".

During his visit to Cairo, Meshaal has met with Egypt's intelligence services, Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Saturday, he said the Islamist group was reluctant to agree a ceasefire without guarantees Israel will honour it.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian official in Cairo said there were "encouraging signs" regarding a truce.

"We've received encouraging signals that it might be possible to stop the fighting and the bloodshed," the official said, before Meshaal's news conference.

"I hope, that maybe by the end of the day, we receive a final signal of what may be achieved to stop hostilities," he said.

"Both sides are saying a ceasefire is important and that there should be guarantees, but these guarantees are different," the official said.

Hamas's last sustained conflict with Israel in December 2008-January 2009 ended with an Egyptian mediated truce that was meant to guarantee a loosening of Israel's blockade of Gaza.





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