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Israel Rejects Hamas Ceasefire Proposal

Efforts to negotiate a truce between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip have hit a snag. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, a deadly Palestinian attack has reinforced Israeli concerns.

Israel has rejected a Hamas proposal for a six-month ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The proposal, drafted under Egyptian mediation, calls for Hamas to end rocket and other cross-border attacks and for Israel to lift its crippling blockade on Gaza.

Israel dismissed the truce offer hours after a Palestinian militant armed with a pistol entered an Israeli industrial zone on the border with the West Bank and killed two Israeli security guards. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group claimed joint responsibility for the attack.

"Israel is interested in peace," said Israeli spokesman David Baker. "We feel Hamas is not serious. Hamas is trying to buy time in order to rearm and regroup and get ready for its next offense against Israel. Israel will continue to take the necessary steps to protect its people."

Hamas brushed off Israel's rejection of the truce, saying Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman would visit Jerusalem next week to try and get the Israelis on board.

Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told reporters in Gaza that a ceasefire is within reach and the ball is now in Israel's court. He said the goal of the truce is to end Israel's blockade on Gaza, but he warned that Hamas has other options for breaking the siege. He did not elaborate, but this month, Hamas has carried out a wave of attacks on Israeli border crossings.

On Friday, thousands of Palestinians protested near the Israeli border with Gaza, demanding an end to the blockade.