Hamas on Thursday proposed a six-month truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip, with an option to extend it afterward to include Palestinians in the West Bank.

Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, speaking in Cairo after meeting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, said the truce must include an end to the Israeli blockade of the coastal strip.

"The movement agrees to a truce in the Gaza Strip .... fixed at six months, during which period Egypt will work to extend the truce to the West Bank," Zahar said, reading from a Hamas statement.

"The truce must be mutual and simultaneous and the blockade must be lifted and the crossing points opened, including the Rafah crossing point (between Gaza and Egypt)."

Other Palestinian factions, including the Islamic Jihad militant group and leftist groups based in Damascus, had preliminarily approved the offer, Zahar said.

Suleiman, Egypt's main contact with Hamas and Israel, had agreed to call Palestinian factions to Egypt to discuss the offer and ensure Palestinian consensus, Zahar said.

"It was agreed with Minister Suleiman to invite the Palestinian factions next Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the paper presented by our side," Zahar said.

The Egyptian official would then contact the Israelis to ensure that they are committed to the truce and to fix a date for it to start, the Hamas leader added.

A Palestinian official close to the talks with Egyptian mediators said earlier Thursday: "Hamas's position is that they agree to a calm in Gaza and the West Bank but it would begin in Gaza at this stage and then apply to the West Bank after an agreed and specified period of time."

Hamas had previously demanded that any truce apply to both Gaza and the West Bank simultaneously.

Hamas' Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday that Hamas is prepared to offer Israel a long-term cease-fire, or hudna, in return for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and right of return for refugees - without recognizing Israel.

Summary of Hamas' offer:

  • The truce between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip would be for a period of six months during which time Egypt would try to extend it to the West Bank.

  • The truce must be reciprocal and simultaneous on the part of Israelis and Palestinians.

  • Israel must lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip and reopen all the crossing points, including the Rafah crossing point into Egypt, simultaneously with the start of the truce.

  • If Israel rejects the truce, Egypt would reopen the Rafah crossing point. If Israel reneges on its truce commitments, Egypt would keep the Rafah crossing open.

  • Egypt would supervise the process of reaching a consensus on the terms of the truce with other Palestinian factions. Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has agreed to invite whichever Palestinian factions Egypt sees fit to Egypt next Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the Hamas proposals.

  • Once the Palestinian factions have agreed to the terms of the truce Suleiman will contact the Israeli side to ensure that they are committed to the truce and fix a starting time.

  • Egypt has promised to start immediate contacts with the Israeli side to prepare the atmosphere for the truce and to provide basic needs to the Gaza Strip, especially fuel.

  • Egypt will contact Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah faction to make sure that Fatah does not obstruct the opening of the crossing points.

  • Egypt must try to persuade Abbas to put an end to abuses and violations in the West Bank - a reference to Fatah's harassment of Hamas members there.

  • If Israel does not meet its truce obligations, stop attacks and end the blockade, then the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves by all legitimate means.