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Deal to end Gaza rocket fire at Israel disputed

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas agreed on Saturday militants should unilaterally stop firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for Abbas said. But a Hamas spokesman denied the armed wing of the ruling militant group had agreed to any truce.
/ Source: Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas agreed on Saturday militants should unilaterally stop firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for Abbas said.

But a Hamas spokesman denied the armed wing of the ruling militant group had agreed to any truce. The Islamic Jihad group also said it would not stop launching rockets unless Israel halted air strikes on Gaza and raids in the occupied West Bank.

A spokesman for Haniyeh’s government declined to comment.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said the deal was reached during late-night talks between the two men in Gaza that also focused on a statehood proposal implicitly recognizing Israel.

Abu Rdainah said no deal was struck on the proposal. Locked in a power struggle with the three-month-old Hamas government, the moderate Abbas has called a referendum for July 26 on the manifesto unless the two sides can agree on its contents.

Israeli air strikes have killed 15 civilians in Gaza in recent attacks aimed at militants involved in firing homemade rockets at the Jewish state.

“There is consensus on the need to ... embarrass the Israelis by stopping Palestinian rocket fire in order not to give Israel a pretext to continue attacks on the Palestinian people,” Abu Rdainah said.

But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said:

“This statement is inaccurate. The military wing has not given a commitment in this regard. The problem is with the occupation, not the Palestinian people,” he said. Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, has recently called for both Palestinian militants and Israel to step back from attacks.

The rockets rarely cause casualties but have disrupted life in southern Israel. Israel has defended the air strikes.

Uptick in bloodshed
Hamas ended a 16-month-old truce with Israel on June 9 after seven members of one Palestinian family were killed on a Gaza beach during a day of heavy Israeli shelling. Hamas has blamed Israel for those deaths. Israel has denied responsibility. Rdainah said Abbas and Haniyeh would meet on Sunday to continue discussing the statehood manifesto, which envisages a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and the West Bank, land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

He said a sticking point was a unity government outlined in the document, penned by Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Hamas wants to dominate such an administration while Abbas’s Fatah movement believes it should be stacked with technocrats to help restore foreign aid.

The West and Israel imposed an economic embargo on the new government over Hamas’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state, renounce violence and accept interim peace accords.

Hamas sources have said the group had also introduced an article into the document explicitly rejecting recognition of Israel. Abbas is unlikely to accept such terms.