Hamas rejects truce with Israel until end to Gaza blockade

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The radical Islamist group Hamas could halt rocket attacks on Israel if an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip is lifted, the movement's political leader Khaled Meshaal said on Monday.
DAMASCUS, April 21 (RIA Novosti) - The radical Islamist group Hamas could halt rocket attacks on Israel if an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip is lifted, the movement's political leader Khaled Meshaal said on Monday.

Ex-U.S. president Jimmy Carter said earlier in the day after meeting with Meshaal and other leaders from the Islamic movement in Syria, that Hamas was ready to live in peace with Israel if an agreement was supported by a Palestinian referendum.

Meshaal, however, said there would be no truce with Israel until Tel Aviv lifts its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel and Egypt restricted movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian general elections, and further tightened the blockade after the radical group seized Gaza from President Abbas' Fatah in June, leaving the Palestinian leader in control of the West Bank.

Last November's U.S.-hosted Mideast summit saw a resumption in talks between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel after a seven-year hiatus. The sides pledged to do everything possible to draft a peace settlement by the end of 2008, as well as to come to an agreement on the form of a future independent Palestinian state.

However, the talks came to a halt last month following a devastating Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which killed 120 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

Abbas announced he would resume talks following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the end of March. However, Thursday saw another surge in violence in Gaza with Israeli military strikes killing at least 20 Palestinians, mostly civilians, while three Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hamas ambush.

Moscow is due to host a Mideast peace conference, a follow-up to last November's talks in Annapolis, in June. The conference, which has received the backing of several Mideast states including Syria, is expected to bring major breakthroughs and strengthen Russia's role in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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