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Middle East

Hamas ready to sign 18-month truce

Article published on the 2009-02-13 Latest update 2009-02-13 14:09 TU

A police officer at a Hamas outpost hit by Israel on Monday (Photo: Reuters)

A police officer at a Hamas outpost hit by Israel on Monday
(Photo: Reuters)

The Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas has accepted an Egyptian-brokered 18-month truce with Israel, according to the Egyptian state news agency, Mena. Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk says that Israel has agreed to open crossings into Gaza, which the movement still controls after Israel’s three-week military offensive in the territory.

Hamas agreed to a new ceasefire after meeting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, Mena quoted Abu Marzuk as saying on Thursday.

Israel has agreed to open all six passages into Gaza, said Suleiman, adding that Egypt will announced the agreement after contacting Israel and other Palestinian factions.

Mena says that the announcement will be made within 48 hours.

Israel has so far refused to comment.

Israel has put Hamas “on the back burner, because the main focus of attention, of course, is on the election outcome,” says correspondent Peretz Kidron, because parties are trying to form a government after Tuesday’s election.

The delay in forming a government, explained Kidron, will likely mean the outgoing government that will sign this ceasefire.

“Until a new coalition is put together and confirmed by the Knesset, the outgoing government, headed by the discredited Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is in charge and can formally give the OK,” he said.

“And that is very convenient for many politicians, because nobody wants to take the responsibility for striking a deal with Hamas. So if it can be all laid at the door of Ehud Olmert and his outgoing government, that’s very convenient for most of the parties in the Knesset.”

Hamas officials say that Israel has agreed to allow 70 to 80 per cent of goods across the border, but will prevent material it says could be used to make weapons.

On Friday Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said that his movement had not agreed to Israel’s demand to release Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Though Abu Marzuk earlier said that Shalit's release was not a condition of the truce deal, and that he would be freed in exchange for some of the Palestinian prisoners currently held in Israeli jails.

Meshaal was in Tripoli to thank Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for his support during the Israeli offensive.

Hamas officials were expected to meet members of Mahmud Abbas's Fatah on Thursday to prepare talks on reconciling the Palestinian warring factions. Egypt has invited the two groups to a meeting on 22 February.

Meanwhile, two rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel early Friday. There were no casualties.