Defense Min.: Fighting in southern Israel, Gaza may soon resume
Barak: We're not in a place to achieve resolution; Hamas: No truce until IDF ends Gaza, W. Bank raids.
The fighting in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip could soon resume, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday after a short lull in rocket attacks from the Hamas controlled territory against Israel, as well as Israel Defense Forces raids in the area.
"We aren't sitting with a stopwatch in our hands, and it's not a 'wham bam thank you ma'am' thing. What awaits us here is more [military] operations and infantry troops who are stationed here," Barak said during a visit with the IDF Gaza division.
Responding to questions regarding the likelihood of a cease fire agreement with Hamas, who controls the Gaza Strip, Barak said "we're not in a place where we can achieve resolution, instead we are embroiled in ongoing activity which aims to bring about an end to the Qassam rocket fire and bring back a feeling of security to the residents of the area."
The defense minister added that continued fighting may spark an escalation of violence "beyond anything we have seen so far."
Earlier Wednesday, Hamas publicly set its terms for a cease fire with Israel, calling for an end to IDF raids in Palestinian territories and a reopening of Gaza border crossings.
Egypt has been trying to broker a truce that would also end Gaza rocket attacks against Israel by militants from Hamas and another Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad.
"There must be a commitment by Israel, to end all its aggression against our people, assassinations, killings and raids, and lift the [Gaza] siege and reopen the crossings," Hamas's Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech.
A cease-fire deal, he said, should be "reciprocal, comprehensive and simultaneous" and apply both to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Haniyeh said that Israeli agreement to a ceasefire would be due to "Hamas' victory in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli operation," referring to the Israel Defense forces ground offensive against rocket squads in northern Gaza some two weeks ago.
The Hamas leader used the word tahdiya to describe the informal cease-fire he sought. He avoided use of another word often used in Arabic, hudna, because it would imply recognition of Israel's right to retaliate for attacks, Hamas officials said. Both terms denote a temporary cease-fire rather than a permanent peace.
"We will not abandon you, our people in the West Bank," Haniyeh said. "Aggression against you is aggression against us."
There was no immediate Israeli comment on Haniyeh's remarks.
Hamas-Israel deal would put Abbas' men at Gaza crossings
A deal being formulated between Israel, Egypt and Hamas involves deploying Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' troops at the crossings with the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources told Haaretz Tuesday.
According to the sources, Israel and Hamas have agreed to the Egyptian proposal to deploy Palestinian Authority Presidential Guard members along the Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings, where cargo is transferred between Israel and Gaza, as well as at the Erez crossing, a passageway for people and goods.
Guard members will be deployed also at the Rafah crossing, which connects Sinai, Egypt with the Strip.
Hamas forces will be positioned nearby and will essentially control the movement of Palestinian civilians in and out of Gaza.
This agreement is in keeping with the 2005 crossings agreement, between the U.S., Israel and the PA, which called for placing the crossings under forces loyal to Abbas.
The Palestinian sources said that Hamas leaders are due to meet with Egyptian mediators within the next two days. The Egyptians will convey Israel's views on the Egyptian proposal, and Hamas is to state whether it agrees to a temporary cease-fire.
The current round of violence ended after Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders met with Egyptian officials last week.
The PA also has agreed to the Egyptian proposal. It is expected to present any agreement as a success, because this would mean Hamas has failed to break the siege on Gaza. It has controlled the coastal strip since overthrowing Fatah there last June.
Meanwhile, Damascus-based Hamas leader Mohammed Nasser released the group's conditions for a cease-fire with Israel Tuesday. Nasser says Hamas is demanding Israel completely cease "all acts of aggression" in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
By this demand, Hamas is toughening its stance regarding the cease-fire in the works, and is posing a demand that Israel steadfastly has refused to accept so far. Israel rejects any deal that would bar it from arresting suspected militants in the West Bank.
Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in the Strip, confirmed in a telephone conversation with Haaretz on Tuesday that the radical Islamic group is demanding Israel stop making arrests in the West Bank in exchange for a cease-fire deal.
Nasser also added that Hamas is ready for a temporary cease-fire with Israel, on the condition that it occurs simultaneously and applies to both sides.
Abbas said Monday during a meeting with Jordanian journalists that "a senior figure in the Israeli government is undermining the negotiations for internal reasons and because of personal hostility to me." He was in Jordan to meet with King Abdullah.
A Jordanian journalist who published the story noted that Abbas was referring to Barak.
Abbas also said that any agreement on Palestinian refugees' right of return would be implemented over the course of at least a decade after the signing of a peace deal.