Israel rejects Hamas cease-fire offer as humanitarian crisis deepens in Gaza
Israel says offer is a bid to buy time. The UN said it ran out of fuel to distribute aid.
Israel rejected a cease-fire offer from the Palestinian group Hamas as a humanitarian aid crisis erupting in the Gaza Strip threatened wider instability. The crisis in the troubled Palestinian territory deepened as President Bush, meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, offered assurances that a two-state deal is possible before he leaves office in January.Skip to next paragraph
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... [The] Palestinian group offered to cease cross-border rocket attacks if Israel opens crossing points into Gaza and ends military incursions into the Palestinian territory.
Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera that it would aim to improve the situation in Gaza first and then expand to the West Bank as well.
He said: "I think the key condition for this ceasefire is that Israel should re-open all the crossings [into Gaza], especially the Rafah crossing, in order to allow people and goods to move in and out and to lift the embargo on the Palestinian people.
"Without opening the crossings, there will be no means for the ceasefire."
Israel quickly balked, calling it a ruse by which Hamas hoped to get time to rest before launching more attacks, according to another Al Jazeera report.
"Hamas is biding time in order to rearm and regroup. There would be no need for Israel's defensive actions if Hamas would cease and desist from committing terrorist attacks on Israelis," David Baker, Israeli government spokesman, said on Friday.
Israel has sealed the Gaza Strip off from all but vital humanitarian aid since Hamas, an Islamist movement pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state, seized control of the territory last June.
Humanitarian agencies say Gaza, one of the world's most densely populated areas with 1.5 million people living in a narrow sliver of land, is teetering on the brink of disaster.
Israel says the sanctions it applies are necessary to pressure Hamas to end near-daily rocket attacks on Israeli communities and military positions near the fenced-off border.