From: Reuters
Published April 22, 2008 09:08 AM

Hamas readies final response to truce deal with Israel

GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas plans to give Egyptian mediators its final response on Thursday to a proposed truce with Israel, a Hamas official said on Tuesday.

Egypt's state newspaper al-Ahram reported a preliminary agreement had been reached on "achieving a period of calm with the Israelis."

A Palestinian official familiar with the Islamist group's talks with Egypt said he expected Hamas to agree to a reciprocal truce with Israel "in the Gaza Strip, at this stage."

Hamas, which controls the coastal territory, had said it also wanted a ceasefire to cover the occupied West Bank, where the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds sway.


Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said the group would present its final response to Egypt on Thursday.

He declined to comment on its content but said any ceasefire should be based on "ending the aggression against the Palestinian people" and securing the opening of Gaza border crossings.

Israel, which tightened restrictions on the Gaza Strip after Hamas violently took over the territory from Fatah in June, has said it was not negotiating a truce with the group but had no reason to launch attacks if cross-border rocket fire stopped.

A European Union official who oversees fuel shipments to the Gaza Strip's lone power plant said Israel had not allowed deliveries to the facility since last Thursday. Israel closed a border fuel depot for the Passover holiday over the weekend.

"The situation is getting back to critical," the official said, adding that talks were under way to see if fuel could be delivered on Wednesday.

Kanan Abaid, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority in the Gaza Strip told a news conference the plant would have to shut down on Wednesday evening unless supplies resumed.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Aziz El-Kaissouni in Cairo, Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and Aziz El-Kaissouni, Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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