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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ha'aretz signals it would agree to lull in fighting with Hamas

Ha'aretz tells us:
Hamas has signaled to Israel, through various interlocutors, that it would agree to a tahdiye (a lull) in the fighting in the Gaza Strip, even though there is still no agreement within the radical Islamist group about such option.
If there is no agreement within the group, then how can they be ready? What are they read for? Would the "lull" include an end to arms smuggling? Would it prevent Israel from acting in the West Bank?
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 10:04 01/01/2008       
Hamas signals it would agree to lull in fighting with Israel
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, and News Agencies
Hamas has signaled to Israel, through various interlocutors, that it would agree to a tahdiye (a lull) in the fighting in the Gaza Strip, even though there is still no agreement within the radical Islamist group about such option.
On Monday, the 43rd anniversary of the establishment of Fatah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Hamas to cede control over the Gaza Strip and return to reconciliation talks and early elections.
On the occasion of the Fatah anniversary, internecine fighting broke out between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, killing at least six and injuring dozens of others.
In an effort to bring an end to the IDF attacks that have targeted militants involved in the launching of Qassam rockets against Israel, Hamas has raised the possibility of reaching a tahdiye, a lull in the fighting, in exchange for an end to Israeli attacks.
Hamas is trying to reach agreement with other radical groups in the Gaza Strip, in order to halt the rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.
However, within Hamas itself, there is opposition to any form of compromise with Israel, Haaretz has learned from spokesmen of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip.
In a conversation with Haaretz, Taher al-Nunu, spokesman for the administration, Hamas has wanted a tahdiye for some time which would include a stop of Israeli offensive operations, in return for an end to Palestinian attacks, including rocket barrages.
Al-Nunu explained that the closing down of the crossing points by Israel following the Hamas takeover of the Strip in June, has caused great suffering to the population, but did not say that lifting the siege would be one of the conditions for a lull in the fighting.
However, a source close to former PA prime minister and Hamas leader in the Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, "the tahdiye must include an opening of the border crossings for the passage of goods and people, and the lifting of the economic embargo on the Strip."
The same source explained that "tahdiye is different from a hudna (a cease-fire). The meaning is that tahdiye will be of short duration, only a few months, and not a hudna which may be a temporary solution, but can be the start of a longer diplomatic framework. There is no new policy of the organization or the government, but there is no point in an end to the assassinations policy [the IDF targeting of militants] if the siege will continue and the crossings remain closed."
The Hamas movement's spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, told Haaretz that any lull in the fighting must be comprehensive.
"If Israel ceases all forms of aggression, including arrests, assassinations, invasions, and also opens the crossings and lifts the siege on the Strip, Hamas will consider favorably taking steps on behalf of the Palestinian people, in the form of a tahdiye."
But Hamas is not only experiencing difficulties formulating a common position within the organization, but is also finding that talks with Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees are also proving inconclusive due to differences of opinion among factions within those groups.
On Monday, Abbas called on Hamas to agree to early elections, cede control of the Gaza Strip and hold reconciliation talks with Fatah.
The address made in Ramallah on the 43rd anniversary of the creation of Fatah, was followed with renewed fighting between Fatah and Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip. In the latest round of fighting, at least six Palestinians died and scores were injured.
Medical officials said one of the dead was a Hamas police officer, another was a teenager and a third was a Fatah supporter. About 30 people were wounded, they said.
These were the first fatalities in Fatah-Hamas fighting since November 11, when Hamas forces opened fire on a huge Fatah rally, killing eight and wounding about 85
"I renew the option of early elections... and I pledge that I will do my best to ensure this election will be the product of a deep and brotherly understanding," Abbas said.
"I urge all, Fatah and Hamas movements and all other Palestinian factions, to study this alternative and not to rush, as usual, to reject it".
He also called on Hamas "to open a new page in relations within our Palestinian home," in a conciliatory tone.
Hamas spokesman Barhoum said that while the group was ready for dialogue with Fatah, it would not accept Abbas' demand to first give up control of the Strip.
"Abbas is betting on the American-Zionist project and not on dialogue with Hamas," Barhoum told a news conference in Gaza. "We renew our readiness and willingness to restore dialogue with Fatah without conditions."
Monday's violence broke out after Fatah loyalists defied a Hamas ban on public gatherings in the Gaza Strip.
Fireworks lit the skies of Gaza after nightfall, and Fatah backers fired rifles in the air all over Gaza.
Clashes occured in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, in Rafah, on the Sinai border, and in Gaza City. Among the dead, medics said two were Hamas police officers, one was a Fatah backer. Another was a child and an elderly man. At least 70 people were injured.

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