GAZA UPDATE 5: Hamas says Israel must make first move on ceasefire
Khaled Meshaal, exiled leader of Palestinian group Hamas, said Israel must take the first step if a ceasefire in Gaza is to be accomplished
Reuters , Monday 19 Nov 2012
Palestinians carry the bodies of two members of the al-Dalo family during their funeral in Gaza City November 19, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
The exiled leader of the Palestinian group Hamas said on Monday Israel must take the first step if it wants a truce in the conflict in Gaza.
"Whoever started the war must end it," Khaled Meshaal told a news conference in Cairo.
Meshaal also said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a ceasefire - an assertion the Jewish state immediately denied.
Israel bombed dozens of targets in Gaza on Monday for a sixth day on Monday but mediator Egypt said a deal to end the fighting could be close.
Twelve Palestinian civilians and four fighters were killed in the air strikes, bringing the Gaza death toll since fighting began last Wednesday to 90, more than half of them non-combatants, Gaza officials said. Three Israeli civilians have been killed by Hamas rocket fire over the border.
Meshaal said a truce in Gaza was possible but Hamas would not yield to any Israeli conditions. Hamas did not want an escalation or to draw Israel into a land invasion but was ready to fight back if the conflcit escalated.
Israel had failed to achieve its objectives in Gaza, he said.
"The weapons of the resistance have caught the enemy off guard," he said. "Netanyahu asked for calm and not us."
A senior Israeli government official denied that Netanyahu had requested a truce.
The Hamas leader also called for solidarity in Arab and Palestinian ranks.
"The people of Gaza are not asking for an end of the war, they are asking for their rights, they are asking that Israel end its assassinations and its raids and lift the blockade of Gaza," he said.