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Hamas reportedly accepts cease-fire proposal

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hamas officials reportedly agreed to an Egyptian cease-fire proposal, but with reservations.

Egyptian officials told Arabic-language media that a visiting Hamas delegation accepted the cease-fire proposal Wednesday after making some amendments and was returning to Damascus to brief Hamas leaders there. During the visit, Hamas officials met in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence officials, including intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Salah al Bardawil, the Hamas representative in the Palestinian parliament, said during a news conference in Cairo that his organization  was seeking clarification on the meaning of several clauses in the plan and has offered its own interpretations.

He said Hamas is demanding that Israel, which he called "the Zionist enemy," halt aggression against Hamas, pull all Israeli forces out of Gaza and open the border crossings.
Jerusalem had no immediate reaction to the news, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reportedly were meeting to discuss the development. A top Israeli Defense Ministry official, Amos Gilad, is scheduled to travel to Cairo on Thursday to discuss the Egyptian cease-fire proposal.

Olmert and Barak reportedly have been at odds over whether to proceed further with the Gaza operation, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

Barak favors a cease-fire, the newspaper said, while officials close to the prime minister have criticized cease-fire proposals and Barak’s support of a weeklong humanitarian cease-fire. Olmert canceled a meeting this week with Barak and Livni, who also reportedly supports a cease-fire.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon went to Cairo on Wednesday to push for a Gaza cease-fire. He is scheduled to visit Israel on Thursday.

"I repeat my call for an immediate and durable cease-fire," Ban said during a news conference following a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "I ask that all those who have influence with any parties to this conflict, use all means to end the violence and to find a durable solution."

Ban said he would not visit Gaza due to the dangerous situation there.
 

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