Israel rejects talk of truce by Hamas

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The Independent Online

The Palestinian militant group Hamas is close to agreeing to a temporary ceasefire, Palestinian officials said yesterday. But the Israeli soldier leading security talks with the Palestinian Authority, General Amos Gilad, has already poured scorn on the suggestion.

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, has been trying to persuade Hamas to agree to a hudna, or temporary truce, so that he can fulfil his commitment under the road-map backed by George Bush.

But GeneralGilad said Hamas would use the ceasefire to "build up strength" so it could "execute... more murders, murder on a wider scale".

Condoleezza Rice, Mr Bush's National Security Adviser, is to fly to the Middle East at the weekend. Egyptian mediators are also involved in talks and, if Hamas agrees to a truce, an announcement is expected in Cairo by Thursday.

This morning, Israeli troops clashed with gunmen in Nablus City's Casbah. There were no reports of casualties. The army said it sought locals wanted for carrying out suicide bombings.