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Israel Rejects Palestinian Truce Offer


Palestinian factions have proposed a truce with Israel aimed at ending months of fighting in the Gaza Strip. But Israel has rejected the offer, as we hear from Robert Berger at the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

The ruling Hamas group and other Palestinian militant factions including Islamic Jihad have agreed to halt rocket attacks against Israel. However, the truce, or "hudna" in Arabic, is conditional on Israel halting all military operations against the Palestinians in Gaza.

"If the Israeli is ready to stop their aggression, so at that time we can give [a] long term hudna or long-term truce, and after that let time heal," said Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar.

Palestinian rocket attacks and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in June have prompted a five-month Israeli offensive in Gaza, and militants have suffered heavy casualties in almost daily raids.

Israel is not prepared to ease up. It says a ceasefire would be meaningless unless Palestinian terror groups disarm. Israeli spokeswoman Miri Eisen says the Palestinians are smuggling tons of weapons through tunnels under the Egyptian border, and a truce would enable them to rearm for the next round of conflict.

"The smuggling of weapons through these tunnels of terror into the Gaza Strip is a threat," said Eisen. "These are potential weapons that would be exceedingly lethal, even more than the rockets that we see nowadays."

So despite the truce offer, violence is continuing unabated. Rockets were fired at Israel, and Palestinians say a 10-year-old boy was killed in an Israeli raid.

And underscoring the angry mood in Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians buried a 64-year-old grandmother who blew herself up in a failed attack against Israeli troops. She was by far the oldest of more than a hundred suicide bombers who have attacked Israelis since the Palestinian uprising began six years ago.