Hamas confirms indirect talks with Israel over Gaza

Indo Asian News Service

Gaza, Feb 16 (IANS) Hamas and Israel held indirect discussions, faciliated by Egypt, to further implement the November ceasefire that ended their clash in Gaza, a Hamas official said Saturday, reported Xinhua.

The talks involve taking more steps by Israel to ease its blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and stop attacking Palestinians in areas Israel has recently given to the Palestinians -- the extra 3 nautical miles for fishermen and what had been a buffer zone along Gaza's northern and eastern borders with Israel, according to senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya.

Al-Hayya told reporters that Hamas envoys do not meet the Israelis, but Egypt communicates between the two sides.

Hamas envoys have recently met Egyptian officials and urged them to assess Israel's conduct in Gaza, al-Hayya said, noting that Israel "violates" the ceasefire by targeting fishermen and farmers and not completely lifting restrictions on the transport of goods through the Israeli-controlled commercial crossings.

In November, more than 160 Palestinians and three Israelis were killed in a cross-border fight between Hamas and Israel. Israel later arrested dozens of fishermen and shot dozens of Palestinians who approached its borders.

Al-Hayya said his movement can respond "fiercely" to the Israeli violations, but prefers to giving time for the Egyptian mediatory efforts.

Meanwhile, he said the Palestinian reconciliation cannot happen without an end to what he called crackdown against Hamas supporters in the West Bank.

He said Khaled Mashaal, chief of Hamas politburo, briefed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Fatah party, last week about the arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank.

The reconciliation aims at restoring political unity to the Palestinian territories, which were split when Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces and ousted his Fatah movement from Gaza in 2007. Fatah still holds sway in the West Bank.