Hamas ties truce to lifting of Gaza blockade

Palestinian official Saeb Erakat says he expects a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel to begin soon

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The leader of Hamas repeated on Wednesday his rejection to a ceasefire with Israel before the lifting of the eight-year-old blockade of Gaza Strip, where an Israeli military offensive has so far killed more than 640 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

Khalid Mashal, in a televised speech, also praised the “heroism” of Palestinian fighters facing the Israeli Army in the Gaza Strip, saying that the Palestinians are “stronger” than their arch nemesis.

Mashal said the Palestinian fighters had surprised Israel and outperformed it in the “ethics of war.”

“We kill their soldiers, they kill our civilians,” the Hamas leader said.

His comments came shortly after hopes for a ceasefire to end the almost three week conflict between the two sides, with Palestinian official Saeb Erakat saying he expected a truce between Hamas and Israel to begin in a manner of hours or Thursday at the latest.

Palestinians have repeatedly called for the lifting of the blockade from Gaza, which has strangled the Palestinian enclave for years, before any talk of a cessation to the hostilities.

“The Egyptian initiative didn’t care about lifting the blockade. It talks about ceasefire first, talks later. The Palestinians say they will not accept a ceasefire without lifting the blockade, and we have to listen to the Palestinians,” Khashoggi, a Saudi political commentator and editor-in-chief of Alarab TV, told Al Arabiya News.

“The blockade is the major issue in Gaza. Saudi Arabia for sure will support lifting the blockade in any agreement,” he said.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday defended Egypt’s role in trying to broker a Gaza truce between Israel and Hamas.
Sisi said his truce proposal would give Hamas its key demand for an end to the eight-year blockade of Gaza once calm is restored.
“What we want is that normal citizens in the Gaza Strip not be subjected to what they are going through now,” Sisi said of the proposal, which demands a ceasefire before talks.

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