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Ayalon, Mofaz favor truce talks

Two Israeli Cabinet ministers said the government should consider holding truce talks with Hamas.

Ami Ayalon and Shaul Mofaz were responding to an overture from Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, who told Israel’s Channel 2 television Tuesday that he would be willing to hold negotiations with the Olmert government on a cease-fire.

Haniyeh’s offer came after a series of Israeli airstrikes killed more than a dozen Palestinian terrorists involved in cross-border rocket fire.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with Western backing, has ruled out any contacts with Hamas until the Islamist group formally abandons its quest to destroy the Jewish state. Israel has also spearheaded the international isolation of Gaza in hope of starving Hamas of cash and popular Palestinian support.

But Ayalon, a minister without portfolio and former Shin Bet security chief, told Army Radio, “I would intend to talk to anyone if the objective is stopping the Kassam rocket fire.”

Negotiating, Ayalon said, “is not a crude word, as long as it does not allow them only to get stronger. What will make a difference in the matter of whether Hamas is allowed to resuscitate itself or whether it collapses is what we do.”

Mofaz, the transportation minister and a former defense minister, said he would favor truce talks with Hamas as long as they were conducted through an intermediary and Israel’s attacks on Palestinian terrorists continued in parallel.

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