Hamas: Arms Smuggling to Continue Despite Gaza Truce

PMO: Anyone saying end to smuggling not part of truce deal is trying to destroy calm before it begins.

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that the Islamist group would not stop smuggling activities in the territory.

A halt to smuggling is a central Israeli demand in an Egyptian-brokered Gaza ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which came into effect Thursday morning.

Militant groups smuggle arms and ammunitions into Gaza through tunnels across the border with Egypt and on boats along the coast. Israel has also demanded Egypt step up efforts stop the flow of arms from its territory into Gaza.

"We cannot talk about stopping smuggling because it is something beyond our ability as a government and we did not give a commitment in this regard," Haniyeh told worshippers before Friday prayers in Gaza City.

Haniyeh also said Hamas would not to impose the truce by force on other Gaza militant groups, but added that other groups had agreed to the deal voluntarily.

Egypt, who spent months working on the cease-fire agreement, said it would step up efforts to crack down on smuggling.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, said the ceasefire agreement included an end to attacks on Israel by all militant groups and a complete end to arms smuggling.

"Anyone who says otherwise apparently wants to destroy the calm before it has a chance to really succeed," Regev said.

Israel and Hamas halted fighting in the Gaza Strip on Thursday but, with wider peace prospects hazy, both sides voiced doubt over how long the Gaza cease-fire would last.

Israel also said the truce must include progress in the case of an Israel Defense Forces soldier captured by Gaza militants two years ago.

Haniyeh blamed Israel for delaying progress in reaching a prisoner swap deal to release captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

Meanwhile Friday, Israelis and Palestinians skeptically welcomed the second peaceful day of the truce which halted the daily Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns and communities and Israeli counter raids and airstrikes against Hamas militants in Gaza.

The six-month deal is meant to end attacks that have killed more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis since the Islamic Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip a year ago, and pave the way toward wider-reaching agreements.