Hamas rejects disarmament proposal
GAZA CITY, Gaza City (AP) — With a deadline looming hours away, Hamas on Thursday rejected Israeli demands it disarm and threatened to resume its rocket attacks if its demands for lifting a crippling blockade on Gaza were not met.
The hard-line stance, voiced by a senior Hamas official at the group's first rally since a cease-fire in the Gaza war took effect on Tuesday, signaled that indirect negotiations in Cairo over a permanent truce in Gaza were not making headway. It was an ominous sign ahead of Friday's expiration of a temporary three-day truce that ended a month of fighting.
A text message from Hamas' military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, warned there would be no extension of the cease-fire if there was no agreement to permanently lift the blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt since the militant group overran Gaza in 2007.
Abu Obeida, the al-Qassam spokesman, appeared on the group's Al-Aqsa TV station and said Hamas was "ready to go to war again." He threatened to launch a long-term war of attrition that would cripple life in Israel's big cities and disrupt air traffic at Israel's international airport in Tel Aviv.
He also appealed to Hamas negotiators in Egypt not to accept an extension of the cease-fire without an agreement on lifting the blockade. "The resistance is capable of imposing its conditions," he said.
A security official in Egypt said Egyptian negotiators were struggling to bring the two sides closer together, with one official saying Hamas and other Gaza militants were refusing to compromise.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a tough reaction if Hamas renews hostilities.