(AFP) – Feb 10, 2009
CAIRO (AFP) — Hamas is awaiting the outcome of Tuesday's Israeli election to know whether a long-term truce deal in Gaza can be reached, senior Hamas member Osama Hamdan told AFP.
Egypt has been mediating between Israel and the Gaza Strip's rulers since mutual ceasefires ended the 22-day war on the territory on January 18, but progress has been slow despite repeated announcements of imminent success.
State news agency MENA reported that a Gaza-based Hamas delegation returned to Egypt for more talks on Tuesday, but Lebanon-based Hamdan told AFP by telephone that the Islamists were awaiting the Israeli election result.
"We're following the Israeli election. The election taking place today will determine what will happen," he said.
"If (right-wing Likud leader Benjamin) Netanyahu wins, I don't think that the current government will conclude an agreement. If the current government wins, they could reach an agreement."
While a Hamas official said on Saturday that a truce accord could be clinched within "a few days," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Monday that a lasting Gaza truce could come into effect "next week."
MENA said the Hamas delegation in Cairo on Tuesday, which includes senior members Ayman Taha and Gamel Abu Hashem, would "resume efforts to reach a cooling off."
They will "present the movement's final stand regarding cooling off with Israel and receive the response of the other factions regarding proposals for activating the cooling off and discuss them with Egyptian officials."
Hamdan said that pending the Israeli election result, Hamas was continuing its contacts to resolve sticking points, particularly on how to reopen Gaza's crossing points.
Israel, which controls all but one of the border crossings, has kept the densely populated strip closed to all but essential supplies since June 2007, when Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian faction Fatah.
Hamas has said that Israel wants the crossings to be open initially to 80 percent of goods, with complete opening to follow when a prisoner exchange deal is sealed for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured in 2006.
The Islamists have said they want clarifications on what goods would be allowed into the Gaza Strip initially.
Hamas and Israel, which refuse to negotiate directly with each other, announced unilateral ceasefires on January 18 after a short but fierce conflict left around 1,330 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
Palestinian militants have fired around 40 rockets and mortar rounds into Israel since the theoretical end of hostilities, and Israel has launched sporadic air and artillery strikes on Gaza in retaliation.
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