Gaza-based Hamas leaders to discuss ceasefire with exiled leader

Other News Materials 19 April 2008 13:03 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - A Hamas delegation will visit Damascus Saturday to meet the exiled leader of the Islamic movement and discuss reinforcing a ceasefire between armed Palestinian groups and Israel, Palestinian sources said.

The delegation, comprising Gaza-based leaders Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam, will brief Hamas' politburo chief Khaled Mashaal on the results of talks held in Cairo between the two hardliners and Egyptian intelligence chief on reaching a ceasefire in Gaza.

The discussions will also focus on lifting a siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza since Hamas took over the territory by force in June, the sources said.

Zahar and Siam will return to Cairo after two days to meet Omar Suliman, the Egyptian intelligence chief whose agency sponsors indirect talks between Hamas and Israel, the Cairo-based Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.

The departure of the Hamas delegation to Syria comes one day after Mashaal met with former US president Jimmy Carter. Hamas considers the meeting progress towards overcoming international isolation imposed by the west on the Islamic movement. Zahar and Siam also met Carter in Cairo when they left the besieged Gaza through Rafah crossing.

Sources said the Hamas' delegation will not return to Gaza until it removes all obstacles to lifting the Israeli sanctions and reopening the Gaza Strip crossings, especially the gates between Gaza and Egypt in Rafah city.

Mashaal and Carter also discussed Gilad Shalit, a soldier who has been held hostage in Gaza since 2006 by Hamas. The corporal's plight has complicated efforts to achieve calm.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad movement criticized Hamas for seeking a ceasefire. "Hamas studies the idea of being engaged in a ceasefire with Israel that only be applicable in Gaza only in order to break the siege there, but this will be a big mistake," a spokesman for the movement said.

The Palestinian factions want the ceasefire to include West Bank.