The armed wing of the Palestianian militant group Hamas appears to have rejected Egyptian ceasefire proposals to end a week-long conflict. Israel has, however, approved the truce.
“No official or unofficial side has approached us about the ceasefire talked about in the media… (but) if the contents of this proposal are true, it is a surrender and we reject it outright,” the statement said
“Our battle with the enemy will intensify,” it added.
Hamas wants any truce deal to stipulate that Israel must lift its blockade on Gaza and open the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. It also wants Israel to release Palestinians it re-arrested after freeing them in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israel’s security cabinet has meanwhile approved the Egyptian offer at a specially convened meeting on Tuesday, Israeli officials said.
The cabinet voted in favor of the truce plan just minutes before it was to come into effect at 0600 UTC.
Egypt proposed late on Monday that Israel and Hamas lay down their arms on Tuesday within 12 hours of accepting the plan by 0600 UTC .
The offer aims to end seven days of fighting in which Israel has responded to intensive Hamas rocket fire from the Gaza Strip with hundreds of deadly airstrikes that have killed at least 186 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
No Israelis have so far been killed in the violence, though a number have been injured.
Some 17,000 Palestianians have fled their homes, particularly in northern Gaza.
United States President Barack Obama has backed the Egyptian initiative, calling the Palestinian civilian deaths a “tragedy” while stressing Israel’s right to self-defense.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank, also welcomed the Egyptian plan.
In continuing attacks on Israel on Tuesday morning, two rockets landed in the southern port city of Eilat and another just outside, according to the army. Four people suffered minor injuries.
Reports differed as to where the rockets were fired from, with some saying they had been launched by Islamist militants in Egypt’s Sinai and others that they came from Gaza.
tj/msh (AFP, Reuters)