Hamas: Israel Cease-fire Declaration Not Enough, We`ll Fight On

Damascus-based Hamas official vows group will fight Israel 'with all means' if its demands are not met.

Hamas said late Saturday that it reserves the right to continue resisting Israel "with all means" if Jerusalem does not follow up its ceasefire with a withdrawal from Gaza and lifting the blockade on the territory, a Hamas official said on Saturday.

"The Israeli declaration is not enough," Ali Barakeh said in the Syrian capital.

Hamas said on Saturday that it would fight on despite Israel's declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

"A unilateral ceasefire does not mean ending the (Israeli) aggression and ending the siege. These constitute acts of war and so this will not mean an end to resistance," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Reuters in Gaza.

He also criticised Israel for taking a unilateral approach rather than entering into a deal with Egyptian mediators: "It is an attempt to pre-empt the Egyptian efforts and any other efforts that seek to achieve a withdrawal of the occupying forces, an end to the siege and a ceasefire."

Israel said it would cease fire from 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Sunday. Six rockets from Gaza hit the city of Be'er Sheva around 11 p.m. on Saturday, shortly after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the planned ceasefire. No injuries were reported.

Other Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip, which like Hamas have fired rockets on Israel, rejected Israel's ceasefire. Olmert said that after the ceasefire Israeli troops will remain in the territory but end "offensive activity".

Islamic Jihad said in a statement that "the resistance will continue its battle as long as occupation forces are on the land of Gaza and as long as the siege and the blockade continue."

Abu Youssef Said, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, said: "A unilateral ceasefire is nothing to do with us ... and we will continue to bear arms."

He noted that Israel had failed to stop Gaza militants firing rockets and had not secured the release of the Israeli soldier seized in 2006 by Hamas and its allies.

Hamas's representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told Al Jazeera: "If the Israeli military continues its existence in the Gaza Strip, that is a wide door for the resistance against the occupation forces."

Earlier Saturday, a Hamas official said the group will continue fighting against Israel if none of its demands for a cease-fire are met.

Apparently reacting to reports that Israel could call off its offensive and declare a unilateral cease-fire without considering Hamas demands, Beirut-based Osama Hamdan said fighting would continue.

"Today, the movement's delegation arrives in Cairo. To be clear, we have nothing new to offer. We are not going to go back to the first point in the discussions and dialogue. Either we hear what we want or the result will be continuing the confrontation on the ground," said Hamdan, who is close to movement leader Khaled Mashaal.

Barhoum repeated the call later in the day, saying Hamas will continue fighting until Israeli troops leave Gaza.

He added that for Israel to call a unilateral ceasefire while negotiations are underway in Cairo undermines the mediators, a reference to Egypt that has been promoting its own initiative to end the fighting and resolve the long-running crisis.

Hamdan said Hamas has a clear vision that includes ending the aggression, a withdrawal of Israeli forces, an end to the siege and opening of the crossings.

"If any vision does not achieve these things, then we will continue in the battle on the ground," he said.

A Hamas delegation was set to arrive in Cairo Saturday amid the frenzied international diplomacy to end 22 days of fighting.

On Friday, the group's leader Meshal said Hamas will not accept Israel's conditions for a cease-fire in Gaza and will continue armed resistance until the offensive ends.

Speaking at the opening of an emergency meeting on Gaza in Doha, Meshal called on the leaders present to cut all ties with Israel.

Meshal joined Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a surprise appearance at the summit, aimed to show their weight in diplomatic efforts surrounding the Gaza crisis.

Meshal's comments contradicted a report published in the al-Sharq al-Awset daily on Friday, which claimed Hamas was prepared to accept a conditional cease-fire with Israel starting on Saturday.

According to the report, Hamas has set five conditions for the cease-fire:

1. The reciprocal truce would begin on Saturday and be followed by the immediate transfer of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

2. The Israel Defense Forces must pull all of its troops out of the coastal territory within the first week of the truce.

3. The flow of trade in and out of the Gaza Strip must be renewed and monitored by observers from Egypt, Europe, and Turkey.

4. The Rafah crossing must be reopened and supervised by Palestinian Authority security forces and international observers, until a Palestinian unity government has been established and can take its place.

5. The truce would be instated for one year with an option for renewal.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Friday that the Arab initiative for peace with Israel is "dead" because of its offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at the summit in Qatar, Assad called on the participating Arab countries to sever "all direct and indirect" ties with Israel in protest against its continued operation in the coastal strip.

Ahmadinejad, who is also attending the meeting of Arab and Muslim leaders in Qatar, said the Gaza offensive proved that Israel was in its last throes.

Muslim nations "need to cut relations with Israel and America. Just ties. They don't need to do anything more than that," Ahmadinejad said Friday, according to an Arabic translation of his comments.

Earlier Friday, Israeli and Western sources said that Jerusalem has rebuffed some of the conditions initially set forth by Hamas for an Egyptian-proposed truce in the Gaza Strip, including how long it would last and who would manage the border crossings.

Jerusalem has expressed reservations regarding the Islamist group's terms, despite Cairo's apparent promise to crack down on arms smuggling to Gaza - one of Israel's key demands - and Hamas's willingness to accept the offer.

The Israeli and Western sources said Israel had objected to putting a time limit on the truce. Hamas proposed a 12-month agreement that could later be extended.

"A time limit on any period of quiet is a mistake," a senior Israeli source said. "We saw that when the previous calm ran out of time, it was just an excuse for some to escalate the violence. An open-ended calm is what is needed."

Another Israeli source said that defense official Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security department, returned from his first day of talks in Egypt on Thursday with a reassuring report of progress.

Upon his return, Gilad headed straight to Jerusalem to report to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Gilad was back in Cairo on Friday for further negotiations.

The diplomatic-security cabinet was to meet Friday to vote on the offer, but decided to put off the debate until Gilad returns to Israel with an additional report.

Meanwhile, Livni headed to Washington on Friday to sign a deal of understanding with her American counterpart Condoleezza Rice on the joint supervision and treatment of weapons smuggling from Iran to the Gaza Strip.

"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert authorized this evening the trip of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to the United States in order to promote an American-Israeli outlined agreement intended to deal with weapons smuggling," Olmert's office said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he believed a cease-fire could be signed in a few days, but this depends on Israel's leadership.

The Egyptian truce proposal, of which Haaretz obtained a copy Thursday, contains three clauses.

First, Israel and the Palestinians would agree to an immediate, time-limited cease-fire, during which the border crossings will be opened for humanitarian aid and Egypt will lead negotiations on a long-term truce.

Second, the long-term truce must include provisions on both border security and an end to the blockade of Gaza.

Third, Fatah and Hamas should resume reconciliation talks.

Egyptian officials told Haaretz they believe the initial, short-term truce should last a few months, to allow plenty of time for negotiations on the long-term cease-fire.

However, the proposal does not require Israel to withdraw from Gaza during the initial truce, and Hamas has said it will not accept the proposal unless that omission is corrected.

Salah al-Bardawil, who was Hamas's Gazan representative to the talks with Egypt, said his organization demands that Israel completely withdraw within five days of whenever the initial cease-fire takes effect.

Hamas also insists that the agreement include a deadline by which the border crossings must reopen.

Israel, for its part, insists that the crossings not be reopened until the smuggling issue is resolved to its satisfaction. It also wants Hamas to agree to an explicit timetable for concluding a deal on kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and to be more flexible in what it is demanding in exchange for Shalit.