Advertisement

Hamas chief blames Israel for stalled ceasefire talks, leaves door open

FILE PHOTO: Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, speaks in a pre-recorded message shown on a screen during a press event for Al Quds International Institution in Beirut

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) - Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh blamed Israel on Sunday for stalling ceasefire talks and rejecting Hamas's demand to end the war on Gaza, but said the group was still seeking a negotiated solution.

Haniyeh said Israel hadn't yet given a commitment to end its military offensive, pull out its forces and allow displaced Palestinians to return to their homes across the Gaza Strip.

"We don't want an agreement that doesn't end the war on Gaza," said Haniyeh in a televised speech, one day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins.

"The enemy still refuses to make guarantees and clear commitments over the issue of ceasefire and stopping the aggressive war on our people," he added.

Haniyeh said his group was determined to defend its people and, at the same time, seek a negotiated solution.

"Today, if we receive a clear position from the mediators, we are ready to proceed with completing the agreement and to show flexibility on the issue of prisoner exchange," said Haniyeh.

Hamas precipitated the war by killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 in an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies. In response, Israel launched a ground offensive and aerial bombardment of the densely populated Gaza Strip which, as of Sunday, had killed at least 31,045 Palestinians and wounded 72,654, according to the Hamas-run enclave's health ministry.

Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Britain and others.

Haniyeh said his group was open to forming a unity government with the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other factions.

He said steps towards that goal could include electing a Palestinian National Council and forming an interim national consensus government with "specific tasks" until legislative and presidential elections are held.

Efforts to reconcile the two groups and end divisions that worsened following the 2007 takeover of Gaza by Hamas have failed. Abbas's authority to rule has since been reduced to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

(Reporting by Nidal Al-Mughrabi, Ahmed Tolba and Hatem Maher; editing by Christina Fincher)