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Hamas Denounces Israel for Rejecting Ceasefire Offer
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The Palestinian ruling Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) denounced Israel on Sunday for rejecting a mutual ceasefire proposed by Prime Minister Ismail Haneya.

Hamas spokesman Mushier al-Masri slammed the Israeli rejection of the proposal as "part of an Israeli plan to topple the Hamas-led government and punish the Palestinian people."

"Israel's series of crimes and new method of killing Palestinian families are aimed at reinforcing the principle of unilateral solutions," said al-Masri, who is also a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The Hamas spokesman also urged Israel to release Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in exchange for the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid on June 25.

"The Zionist enemy should not dream that the Palestinian people would release the captive soldier without any price because he is no better than the 10,000 prisoners held in Israel," he said. In addition, al-Nasri stressed, "Halting Palestinian resistance is related to the suspension of the Israeli aggression in the Palestinian territories."

On Saturday, Palestinian Prime Minister and senior Hamas leader Haneya called on both Palestinian militants and Israel to restore calm on the basis of a mutual ceasefire.

He also called for a negotiated solution to securing the release of the abducted Israeli soldier.

Israel, however, rebuffed the ceasefire offer, insisting on the unconditional release of the kidnapped Gilad Shalit and a halt to the Palestinian militant rocket firing.

About 50 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed since Israel launched the broad military operation in Gaza on June 28.

Palestinian militant groups taking Shalit hostage have demanded Israel release Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for Shalit, a request rejected by Israel.

Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing, took part in the June 25 raid on an Israeli army post, during which Shalit was kidnapped and two other Israeli soldiers were also killed.

But the Hamas-led Palestinian government said that it did not order the attack and had no foreknowledge of the abduction, accusing Israel of using the kidnapping as a pretext to topple its rule.

Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, is sworn to Israel's destruct. The group took power in late March following a January election victory.

(Xinhua News Agency July 10, 2006)

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