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Israeli Mayor Calls for Truce Talks With Hamas


An Israeli mayor on the front lines of the conflict with the Palestinians is calling for a truce with Islamic militants. But reaction was cool in both the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau.

The mayor of the southern Israeli border town of Sderot, Eli Moyal, says he is willing to hold truce talks with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. Sderot has been hard hit by daily Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza that have terrorized residents and battered the economy.

It was an about-face for Moyal, a member of the hawkish Likud Party, who has been calling for the army to invade Gaza to end the rocket attacks.

Hamas, which has called for a truce in the past, dismissed Moyal's offer as a publicity stunt. The group said if Israel wants a cease-fire it should end military action and its crippling blockade of Gaza.

The Israeli government also rejected the truce proposal. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says Hamas is a terrorist organization that refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel.

"We are talking of an extremist group, a very hateful agenda, a very extremist agenda, opposed to peace, opposed to reconciliation," said Regev. "And so there is not much to talk about."

At the weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a $91-million plan to fortify homes in Sderot.

Mr. Olmert said that about half the eight-thousand homes in Sderot would be fortified, with the priority given to those buildings directly in the line of fire. The Prime Minister also said that Sderot would be equipped with an anti-missile defense system by 2010.

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