Hamas throws doubt on extension of truce

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The Independent Online

Hamas leaders said yesterday they did not expect to extend a six-month ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip when it expires this week, although it remained unclear whether this would mean an immediate surge in violence.

Israel, which has traded fire with Palestinian Islamists in the enclave in recent weeks, sent a senior official to Cairo and said it was ready to prolong the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire which began on June 19. and runs out on Friday.

In an interview in Damascus, where he lives in exile, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told Al-Quds Television: "We in Hamas, and in most of the factions, think that after Dec. 19 the truce ends and it will not be renewed."

He complained that Israel had not eased its blockade on the territory, as Hamas had hoped when it agreed to end rocket fire.

"We are studying the issue of the calm with our allies ... and, God willing, we will reach a vision within the coming days," Meshaal said.

"But I believe the general mood, among the people and among the factions is against extending calm because the enemy did not abide by its obligations."

A Hamas official in Gaza, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the group would issue a formal statement in a few days that the ceasefire would end.

"Hamas's decision is not to renew calm after it expires," the official said.

The truce had dampened violence but began to unravel early last month after a deadly Israeli raid prompted militants to resume firing makeshift rockets into the Jewish state.

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