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Under pressure, Hamas offers Israel truce talks

The Hamas leaders' proposal, coming after an Israeli attack killed 12 militants in Gaza Tuesday, was met with skepticism on both sides.

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The leadership of Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since the inter-Palestinian war last summer, is reaching out to Israel, offering a "truce" if Israeli incursions into the strip are curtailed, the Associated Press reports.

The offer came from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh after Israeli attacks killed 12 militants in Gaza Tuesday. But a leader of the Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group that has claimed responsibility for much of the rocket fire emanating out of Gaza and targeted at Israel, rejected the proposal.

Haniyeh… reached out to Israel through a reporter for Israel's Channel 2 TV, said Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu.
Al-Shafi told The Associated Press that the Hamas leader complained that Israeli attacks have foiled his attempts to halt the rocket fire. Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group, has been responsible for most of the rocket fire out of Gaza since Hamas seized control of the area last June.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Hamza said Hamas had not approached his group about a cease-fire.
"This is not a time for truce," he told the AP. "We have to inflict revenge upon this criminal enemy."

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reports that a cabinet minister says the country should consider Hamas' proposal, though he hinted that he would oppose opening talks before rocket fire stops, which is one of Hamas's conditions. Dozens of rockets and mortars are fired at Israel from Gaza each week, though they rarely cause casualties.

Israel should not rule out indirect negotiations with Hamas in an effort to halt Qassam rocket fire at southern Israel, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz told Army Radio on Wednesday.
"Mediation is something we can think about but one thing needs to be clear," Mofaz told Army Radio. "This subject is the responsibility of Hamas and the terror groups and as long as these firings and terror from inside the strip won't stop we must continue this policy and not stop for even one hour."
Cabinet minister Ami Ayalon also said Israel should not rule out speaking to "anyone" in order to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, but urged caution to ensure a ceasefire would not lead to a strengthening of Hamas.

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