Accessibility links

Hamas Says Long-Term Gaza Truce Agreed Upon

The Palestinian militant group Hamas says a long-term truce with Israel on the Gaza Strip will be announced in the next few days.

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk told reporters on Thursday that the cease-fire will last 18 months, and include Israel's lifting of a blockade on Gaza. Hamas has repeatedly called for Israel to open all border crossings into the Palestinian territory.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment.

Hamas officials also said a deal for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners will be worked out separately from the truce.

Hamas officials made the remarks after meeting with Egyptian mediators in Cairo earlier in the day.

Both Israel and Hamas called separate cease-fires on January 18th, after Israel's three-week offensive on Gaza, which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis also were killed in the conflict.

The Israeli military relaxed its blockade of Gaza on Thursday to allow a shipment of flowers headed to Europe for Valentine's Day.

A military spokesman, Peter Lerner, says a truckload of carnations should leave Gaza and arrive in the Netherlands in time for the holiday on Saturday, February 14.

He said Israel granted passage to the flowers in response to a request from the Dutch government.

The Dutch foreign ministry says the Netherlands sent 11 truckloads of flower seeds to Gaza in July as part of a program designed to create 1,500 jobs for Palestinians in the territory.