Meshal: Hamas Ready for Truce, but Only as 'Tactic'

Hamas' political leader also says group awaits Israel's reply to Egyptian cease-fire proposal for Gaza.

Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal on Saturday said the Palestinian militant group would accept an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire with Israel but it would only be a "tactic" in the group's conflict with Israel.

"It is a tactic in conducting the struggle - It is normal for any resistance that operates in its people's interest... to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit," Meshal said in an interview with pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television.

"The battle is to be run this way and Hamas is known for that," he added.

The Hamas leader said his group was ready to cooperate in the six-month truce Egypt had proposed a between the Hamas rulers of Gaza and Israel.

He also warned of an explosion of violence in Gaza if Israel rejected the truce.

In his Al-Jazeera interview, Mashaal criticized the Palestinian Authority run by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for holding peace negotiations with Israel but hindering reconciliation talks with Hamas. Abbas, the moderate head of Fatah faction, runs a rival government to Hamas in the West Bank.

Mashaal said the split between the Palestinians is a crime.

Earlier on Saturday, Meshal said Hamas is awaiting an Israeli response to the proposed truce. He made the comments speaking to reporters in Doha.

Meshal said the Palestinian militant group requested that Egypt provide a document with Israel's agreement outlining the terms and conditions of the truce, among them the opening of the Gaza Strip border crossings.

The Damascus-based Hamas leader added that the group's leadership would convene following Jerusalem's reply in order to decide how to respond to the Egyptian initiative.

On Friday, Israel dismissed a proposal by Hamas to call a conditional six-month truce in the Gaza Strip, calling it a ruse aimed at allowing the Islamist group to recover from recent fighting.

"Hamas is biding time in order to rearm and regroup. There would be no need for Israel's defensive actions if Hamas would cease and desist from committing terrorist attacks on Israelis," a spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office, David Baker said.

"To Israel's dismay, Hamas is not serious. It's playing games, trying to buy time in order to regroup and rearm," said Baker.

In apparent reference to Israel Air Force strikes and commando raids in Gaza, Baker added: "Israel will continue to take all measures to defend its civilians," he said.

A delegation from Hamas on Thursday told Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that Hamas is prepared to accept a temporary cease-fire with Israel, to begin in the Gaza Strip. The deal would extend after a predetermined time to the West Bank.

Hamas had previously demanded that a truce apply simultaneously to both areas, but Israel refused.

The delegation from Gaza that met with Egyptian mediators included senior Hamas representatives Mahmoud Zahar and Saeed Seyam, who arrived in Cairo after consultations with Hamas leaders in Damascus.

According to Hamas' truce announcement, Israel would immediately cease all military activity in the Gaza Strip: arrests, assassinations and field operations. In return, Hamas would ensure an end to cross-border rocket fire at Israel or other militant operations, including arms smuggling into Gaza.

In addition, Israel and Egypt would permit the opening of the Rafah crossing, and ease cargo shipments into and out of the Strip.

Suleiman has called a meeting for next week with representatives of all the Palestinian factions to discuss the planned truce, as well as resolving the internal Palestinian conflict.

At the end of the meeting next week, Egypt is set to announce that a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is in effect.

Israel on Thursday refrained from responding officially to Hamas' announcement. In conversations with Egyptian mediators in recent days, Israel clarified its position on the truce proposal and apparently accepted most of its details.

Now Israel will monitor Hamas' compliance with its commitments to Egypt. If Hamas manages to keep things calm and rein in terrorist activity by the other Palestinian factions, the Israel Defense Forces will be instructed to refrain from taking offensive action in the Gaza Strip.

No such order was given on Thursday. Apparently, however, as of Friday a more cautious approach will be put in place for authorizing such operations, taking into consideration the new situation. Activity will focus on immediate warnings of planned terror attacks, which must be dealt with.

So far, the army has not received orders to lift - even partially - the blockade on the Gaza Strip crossings.

Routine IDF activityBefore dawn on Thursday, before Hamas made its announcement, IDF troops from the Givati and Golani brigades operated in the southern and northern parts of the Gaza Strip. The IDF said this was routine anti-terror activity in these sectors.

During this activity the IDF arrested 30 Palestinians for interrogation in Israel. There were also several airstrikes against armed Palestinian cells, some of which the IDF reported hitting.

IDF soldiers operating east of Khan Yunis clashed with Palestinian militants. According to Palestinian sources, three armed members of Islamic Jihad were wounded in the firefight.

On the outskirts of Beit Hanun, a Givati force searching areas from which Qassam rockets are launched at Sderot clashed with armed Palestinians, the IDF said. It said an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at militants, and Palestinian sources claimed a 52-year-old civilian man was killed.