Following Abu Mazen Meeting, Hamas Hints at Limited Truce

The militant Islamic group Hamas indicated Thursday that it would be willing to begin a limited truce with Israel, but conditioned it on an end to IDF strikes on suspected Palestinian militants.

Speaking after a 90-minute meeting Thursday with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) at his Gaza City office, Hamas spokesman Ismail Hanieh suggested that the truce would involve a halt in attacks on civilians in Israel, but not settlers and soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as long as Israel ends its policy of targeted assassinations.

Hanieh also said that the meeting had been set up at Abu Mazen's request.

The meeting was the first between Abu Mazen as prime minister and Hamas, which along with the militant group Islamic Jihad has carried out dozens of attacks that have killed scores of Israelis during 32 months of fighting.

Stopping the violence is a demand spelled out in the first phase of an internationally backed road map to peace that both Israel and the Palestinians are being pressured to implement.

Abu Mazen has said he would like to reach a cease-fire agreement with the Islamic factions. Israel, however, says this is unacceptable as it would allow the organizations to regroup. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has insisted that Abu Mazen crack down on militant groups, disarm cells and imprison leaders.

Egyptian-sponsored meetings between the Palestinian factions last year in Cairo, aimed at reaching a one-year cease-fire, ended without results.