GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said Friday that Palestinian factions had agreed to halt rocket fire if Israel reciprocates by stopping its military offensives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Miri Eisen, a spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, rejected the proposal as “ludicrous,” and called on the Palestinians to come up with a more realistic plan for halting the cycle of violence.
Palestinian militant factions, including the ruling Hamas group, have often agreed among themselves to halt violence against Israel should the military respond in kind, a proposal that has failed time and again to bring an end to the fighting.
On Thursday, the factions again met and reached a deal to halt rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, activity that has led Israel to launch a broad offensive into the coastal area.
But on Friday, violence in the Gaza Strip continued unabated with Israeli soldiers killing two Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, and militants firing at least two rockets at Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip. The deaths came a day after a 64-year-old Palestinian grandmother blew herself up alongside Israeli troops operating in northern Gaza, killing herself and lightly wounding two soldiers.
Haniyeh said the rockets could give the perception that the Palestinians are armed, and it would be preferable for them to appear weak opposite “Israeli aggression.” However, he said the Palestinians would not stop their attacks until Israel does. “The ball now is in the Israeli court,” Haniyeh said. “It (Israel) must stop its aggression and escalation against the Palestinian people, then there will be no problem according to what the factions agreed in their last meeting.”
Haniyeh was scheduled to meet faction leaders again later Friday, and the sides hoped to draw up a written truce proposal, officials said.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said the Palestinians will not initiate a truce in any case. “There is no room for a truce while the aggression continues,” Barhoum said. “Israel must first stop its aggression, lift the siege and release prisoners.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently got involved in efforts to nail down a cease-fire, and will hopefully come up with a more serious proposal that Israel could respond to, Eisen said. “Israel wants calm in the Gaza Strip,” Eisen said. “We’ll see if there are more concrete proposals.”