Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect contacts about ideas for cementing a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip, sources in the Islamist movement said Tuesday.
The contacts have gone through a number of Arab and European channels in a bid to firm up an informal ceasefire agreement that took hold last August, ending a 50-day Israeli offensive on Gaza.
"There has been indirect contact between Israel and Hamas, messages passed via Arab channels as well as through European and Turkish sources," one of the sources told AFP, describing it as "an indirect exchange of ideas."
The Egyptian-brokered truce came into effect on August 26, with Israel and the Palestinian factions pledging to resume indirect contacts within a month to pin down a lasting ceasefire and discuss crunch issues.
But the follow-up talks were delayed several times and never formally resumed.
"We are ready for an agreement. Hamas wants to solve the problems in Gaza," the source said.
But he insisted the contacts were purely informal and that there was no formal initiative or proposal on the table.
"Hamas has received some European envoys in Gaza and Doha with messages from Israel.
"We received several envoys but it's not officially talks. It's indirect ideas and communication," he said, noting the involvement of a UN official as well as members of the European parliament.
Senior Hamas officials had met in Doha over the weekend for talks with the Qataris, he said, while denying remarks attributed to a senior Hamas official which suggested there was a written proposal under discussion.
He said the discussions were about an agreement of five to 10 years, and focused on key issues for Hamas such as ending Israel's blockade, which is now entering its ninth year, and the establishment of a sea passage between Gaza and the outside world.
He did not say whether other Palestinian factions were involved in the talks, such as the Fatah movement of president Mahmoud Abbas which was heavily involved in the Egyptian-brokered talks that ended the conflict.
The Israeli offensive claimed the lives of almost 2,200 Palestinians, UN figures show. On the Israeli side, 73 people were killed, most of them soldiers.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online.