Hamas, Israel deny truce talks
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday denied that Israel was engaged in truce talks with Hamas, but said it would have no reason to strike Gaza Strip if there were no rocket fire from the territory. His comments came as Israel and Hamas appeared to be abiding by a tacit agreement to hold fire in and around the Gaza Strip amid Egyptian efforts to secure a broader truce deal.
"There is no deal, there are no negotiations, either direct or indirect," Olmert said, according to AFP. "There is an unequivocal demand that hasn't changed, and if this demand is fulfilled, there will be no need for a ceasefire," he stated. "If the terror stops, if the Qassams stop landing on residents of Sderot and if Grads stop landing on Ashkelon... Israel will have no reason to fight the terror organisations there.... We will have no reason to retaliate."
"Israel has not asked Egypt to mediate with Hamas on a ceasefire. Egypt is not playing any role in negotiations with Hamas," the Israeli leader said. "The army has full freedom to act (in Gaza) at any given time... without any restraints."
These Israeli remarks contradicted statements from Egypt that Cairo, backed by Washington, has been promoting a comprehensive deal between Israel and Hamas. In a statement in Gaza, Hamas said it was working with the Egyptians to reach a ceasefire agreement. "We appreciate what Egypt is undertaking," said Ismail Haniya.
Hamas "will help the Egyptian leadership to reach a reciprocal and simultaneous truce that will at the same time lead to the lifting of the blockade imposed on the Palestinian people", he said.
On his part, Mohamed Nasr, a member of the Hamas political bureau, flatly denied that his Movement had reached a truce agreement with Israel through Egypt, adding that there would be no calm of any kind with Israel unless it was comprehensive, reciprocal and simultaneous. According to Nasr, the Egyptians are making efforts to reach a truce formula that takes into account the demands of both parties, but these efforts are obstructed by Israel.
He also doubted Israel's seriousness to reach calm with the Palestinians because Israel does not want the Palestinian people to sign an agreement with it as its equals.