Hamas lays out truce conditions
Palestinian militant group Hamas has set out for the first time conditions for a truce with Israel to end violence that has cost 125 lives in a week.
Former PM Ismail Haniya called for an end to Israeli military operations in Gaza and the re-opening of its borders in return for halting rocket attacks.
He said the deal had to be "reciprocal, comprehensive and simultaneous" and that the "ball is in Israel's court".
The Hamas offer comes after a lull in violence in Gaza in the past few days.
On Monday, the Israeli government ordered its forces to reduce operations in Gaza following a sharp drop in rocket fire from Palestinian militants over the weekend.
In a speech at Gaza's Islamic University, Mr Haniya demanded a lifting of economic sanctions and the opening of border crossings that have been closed since Hamas seized control of the territory in June.
"There must be a commitment by Israel to end all its aggression against our people, assassinations, killings and raids, and lift the siege," he said.
The ceasefire deal, he said, had to be "reciprocal, comprehensive and simultaneous" and apply to both Gaza and the West Bank.
Mr Haniya said that if Israel agreed, the Palestinian "factions will undertake consultations and will give a definitive response" to the proposal.
"The ball is in Israel's court," he added, but cautioned that the various Palestinian militant groups in Gaza were "not running after a truce".
Mr Haniya, who was dismissed as prime minister by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after Hamas took over Gaza, said Egypt had been trying to broker a truce since the recent violence left more than 120 Palestinians and five Israelis dead.
"There are efforts by the Egyptian brothers, who are working on this issue," he said.
A senior Israeli defence ministry official returned on Sunday from talks in Cairo with Egyptian officials, a few days after a similar mission by Hamas officials.
The Israeli government refuses to talk directly to Hamas because it refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist and renounce violence.
Mr Haniya delivered his speech several hours after Israeli troops shot dead an Islamic Jihad militant near the northern West Bank town of Tulkarm.
After the killing, an Islamic Jihad official said the group would retaliate "deep inside the Zionist entity", while Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it showed Israel was "not interested in calm".
In Gaza, one person was also killed and other was injured when an underground tunnel collapsed near the southern town of Rafah, close to the Egyptian border.
Palestinian officials said a group of six Palestinians had been renovating an old smuggling tunnel 10m (33ft) when it caved in. Five of them escaped.
Underground tunnels are used to smuggle goods and weapons into Gaza.
Last week the Egyptian authorities, who are under pressure from Israel and the United States to stop the smuggling, destroyed six such tunnels.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/03/12 14:10:29 GMT
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