Accessibility links

Breaking News

Hamas Rejects Israel's Conditions for Cease-Fire

Hamas has rejected Israel's conditions for a cease-fire. The Israeli offensive has entered its fourth week and Palestinian medical officials say the casualties have topped 1,100. Friday saw more fighting, even as diplomatic efforts intensified. The U.N. chief, meanwhile is calling for Israel to declare a unilateral cease-fire.

Even as diplomatic activity intensified with Israeli negotiators going to Cairo and Washington, the fighting showed few signs of letting up.

Israeli forces continued to use artillery and tanks against targets in densely populated neighborhoods of Gaza Friday. Across the West Bank, there were protests as Palestinians vented their anger over the continuing Israeli offensive.

Hamas says it will consider a cease-fire mediated by Egypt, but rejects Israel's conditions - which include keeping the borders closed and troops on the ground temporarily. Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal addressed an Arab summit in Qatar Friday, urging nations to cut links to Israel.

He said Hamas' first demand is for an end to Israeli aggression in what he described as a one-sided war on a nearly unarmed people. He called for a permanent Israeli pullout of Gaza, and a reopening of borders, including the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Among those attending the summit was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a key supporter of Hamas.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - on a weeklong tour of the region - was in the West Bank town of Ramallah Friday. He suggested Israel should stop waiting for cease-fire negotiations and end its assault immediately.

"The fighting must stop now," he said. "We have no time to lose. If they [take] some more time, there will be more casualties, more losses of human lives, more destructions. I would urge you again that a unilateral declaration of ceasefire would be necessary at this time."

Israel rejects the notion of a unilateral cease-fire. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev tells VOA the Jewish state wants to be sure Hamas can no longer shoot rockets at civilians in Southern Israel before it considers an end to hostilities.

"We want a sustained, real quiet in the South and it's clear that Israel will not agree to a situation where we unilaterally cease our fire and have Hamas simultaneously shooting rockets into Israel," he said.

More rockets landed in Southern Israel Friday.

Residents in Gaza say the fighting Friday was less intense than Thursday - which saw what witnesses describe as the fiercest attack since the offensive began three weeks ago.

Mourners on Friday buried Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam, who was killed during an Israeli air strike on Thursday. Siam led a force of 13,000 armed security men and was regarded as the architect of Hamas' takeover of Gaza in 2007.