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Hamas: Palestinian Militants Willing to Reach Ceasefire
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A senior official in the Hamas-led Palestinian government said on Sunday that Palestinian militant groups were willing to reach a ceasefire with Israel if the Jewish state stopped aggressions against the Palestinian people.

"The groups are ready to agree to a ceasefire with Israel if it stops all kinds of aggressions," Mohammed Awad, Secretary General of the Hamas-led cabinet, told reporters in Gaza.

Awad also revealed that ceasefire talks had been held among Palestinian factions for a long time.

But he also said that the ongoing Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip "justified Palestinian attacks on the Jewish state as an act of self-defense."

Earlier in the day, Nabil Shaath, a senior member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, told the pan-Arab television channel al-Jazeera that Fatah was ready to accept a ceasefire and begin peace talks with Israel.

But he stressed that the ceasefire must be mutual.

"All Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, are ready to engage themselves in a calmness to end the crisis, but Israel has to accept and abide by the calmness too," he said.

Israel has continued a four-week-long military operation in the Gaza Strip, which was launched three days after three Palestinian groups including Hamas' armed wing captured an Israeli soldier and killed two others in a cross-border attack on June 25.

The captors have demanded Israel release more than 1,000prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for the hostage, but were refused.

Israel says the Gaza offensive is aimed to free the abducted soldier and halt Palestinian rocket attacks.

(Xinhua News Agency July 24, 2006)


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