Hamas leader says Israel must ‘lift siege’ of Gaza before any ceasefire

The Telegraph reports: Hamas has ruled out a ceasefire deal unless Israel “lifts the siege” on Gaza, the organisation’s political chief has told The Telegraph.

In his first interview since the recent conflict in Gaza, Khaled Meshaal has said his organisation will not accept a simple cessation of fire by both sides, and that the deal must include long term commitments to improve the “rights of the Palestinian people”.

With mediators gathered in Cairo in an effort find a solution to a conflict that has already seen more than two hundred Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes, Mr Meshaal, for the first time, laid out the demands of his organisation.

He said that Israel must “stop the aggression” of air strikes against targets in Gaza, release the dozens of Palestinians detained in response to last month’s kidnapping of three Israeli students in the West Bank, and “end the siege on Gaza permanently”.

“These are our clear demands,” said Mr Meshaal. “We won’t accept an agreement that prolongs the suffering of our people anymore. In Gaza, for the past seven years of siege, its 1.8 million people have been living in a prison.”

The demands go much further than a return to the truce brokered in Cairo in 2012, to put an end to eight days of fighting in the Gaza strip.

That truce included a pledge to open a border crossing, intending to ease the blockade of the coastal enclave.

On Thursday, Mr Meshaal said that an easing of the restrictions was no longer acceptable and that Hamas would stop at nothing short of a “full and permanent” lifting of the blockade that, as well as regulating the traffic of people and goods at the border crossing, forbids trade from Gaza’s port.

Since General Abdul Fatah Sisi, who considers Hamas a terrorist organisation, became president of Egypt earlier this year, Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt has also remained mostly closed. [Continue reading…]

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