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Middle East

Hamas threatens to renew fighting if truce talks fail

© Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Hamas supporters demonstrate in Gaza

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-07

A spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, warned Thursday of renewed fighting with Israel if talks in Cairo to extend a 72-truce in Gaza collapsed.

"We appeal to the Palestinian delegation to not accept a ceasefire, unless it satisfies the demands of our people," a spokesman using the nom-de-guerre Abu Obeida said in a televised address, adding that Hamas fighters were "ready to return to battle."

The three-day truce ending four weeks of bloodshed between Israel and Hamas, in which 1,886 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side were killed, is due to end at 0500 GMT Friday.

The sides have so far failed to negotiate an agreement to extend the truce, with the Palestinians accusing Israel of "procrastinating".

Abu Obeida said the main demand of Hamas was the opening of a sea port for the blockaded enclave.

"We will not agree to stop the battle without a real end to the (Israeli) aggression and a real lifting of the siege," he said.

"If there is an agreement, it will be possible to extend the truce, but if there is not, we will ask the delegation to withdraw from the talks."

Speaking from Cairo, senior Hamas political official and delegation member Ezzat al-Rishq, said: "The resistance in Gaza and the delegation in Cairo are in one trench."

Uncompromising positions

Cairo is mediating indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on extending the 72-hour cease-fire that expires Friday morning.

FRANCE 24’s Gallagher Fenwick, reporting from Jerusalem, said both sides were being equally uncompromising and that the talks were seen as “a diplomatic continuation of the fighting”.

“It is obvious that both camps are not going to be able to get what they want,” he said.

“Israel has been asking for a complete demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip before it is willing to end its operation. The Palestinian demands are also unlikely to be met.”

Hamas has demanded the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed on the coastal territory after the Islamic militant group seized power in 2007.

Israel, meanwhile, has said the militants must disarm first, which al-Masri insisted was out of the question.

“The war is not over yet. Our men are still in the field, manning forward positions,” he said. “It is out of the question that the weapons of the resistance should be on the negotiating table. They have not been put on the table and, God willing, they will never be.”

Al-Masri insisted fighters were “in good shape'' despite four weeks of fighting and that Hamas still had tunnels extending into Israel that could be used for attacks if Hamas's demands are not met.

Palestinian stance hardens

One of the Egyptian security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media, told AP the Palestinian delegation's stance had hardened after the arrival in Cairo of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders from the Gaza Strip.

He said Azzam al-Ahmad, the leader of the delegation and the representative of the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, had threatened to withdraw from the talks if the two militant groups do not show more “flexibility,” adding that the delegation, which was supposed to leave Cairo on Thursday, would stay through the weekend.

Al-Ahmad, however, when finally reached by Reuters late Thursday, angrily denied that he had ever threatened to withdraw from the talks, calling the official's charge “baseless”.

The war stemmed from the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

On July 8 Israel began an air campaign on the territory and nine days later it sent in ground troops it said would target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

Nearly 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, three-quarters of them civilians, according to the United Nations. Israel says some 900 Palestinian militants were among the dead. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians inside Israel have also been killed

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-08-07

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