Israel, Hamas at Odds Over Truce Extension

Harinder Mishra, Gaza/Cairo
Israel, Hamas at Odds Over Truce Extension
File - AP Photo/ Lefteris Pitarakis

Israel and Hamas were today once again headed on collision course with the Jewish state willing to back an unconditional extension of a 72-hour ceasefire and the Palestinian militant group denying any agreement on it, saying its "fingers are still on the trigger".

The clock was ticking on the 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that has brought relief to millions on both sides after one month of fighting killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.

Israel has agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said yesterday.

"Israel accepted an unconditional 72-hour cease fire, and is willing to extend an unconditional cease-fire," the official was quoted as saying by Jerusalem Post.

Israeli officials said the country has offered to extend the three-day ceasefire in Gaza which began on Tuesday.

But Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq, part of the Palestinian delegation taking part in Egypt-mediated talks in Cairo, denied that there was yet any agreement on the extension of the ceasefire.

"There is no agreement to extend the ceasefire," he wrote on Twitter.

"Any news about the extension of the truce is unfounded," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Hamas also warned last night that it would resume its attacks on Israel unless Jerusalem accepts all Palestinian demands, first and foremost being the lifting of the siege and release of prisoners who were rearrested in the West Bank.

Hamas official Izzat al-Risheq said, "We haven't received a reply to our demands. Our fingers are still on the trigger."

Israel's Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, has said in televised remarks that should Hamas disrupt the calm, "we will not hesitate to continue to use our force wherever necessary and with whatever force necessary to ensure the security of Israeli citizens near and far."

In his first comments since the 72-hour truce began, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas for all of the civilian casualties, saying it had used civilians as human shields.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has strongly defended Israel, saying no country would tolerate launching of rockets and terror attacks on its cities. He called for the extension of a ceasefire in Gaza.

"I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza," Obama told reporters at a news conference.

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