Israel denies talks with Hamas

Reuters , Monday 17 Aug 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)

Israel said Monday it was not engaged in talks with Hamas following a flurry of media reports suggesting the two sides were discussing a long-term ceasefire.

"Israel is officially clarifying that it is not holding any meetings with Hamas, neither directly, nor via other countries or intermediaries," the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Arab and Turkish media have in recent weeks carried reports that were picked up by Israeli media, claiming Israel and the Palestinian movement that rules the Gaza Strip were holding talks.

According to the reports, the talks were aimed at reaching an eight-year of 10-year truce, with Israel removing its blockade on the coastal Palestinian territory.

A 50-day Israeli offensive on Gaza Strip in July-August 2014 killed about 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side, and destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes in Gaza.

Israel says its nine-year blockade on the impoverished territory is essential to prevent fighters from obtaining materials to fortify military positions and build rockets they could fire at the state.

The reports on truce talks were fuelled by recent meetings between Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal with Turkish and Saudi officials.

The statement from Netanyahu's office also addressed reports that an agreement with Hamas would enable normalising diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey.

Relationships between the former allies soured in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turks after storming the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara en route to Gaza.

Israel apologised in 2013 and talks have been ongoing to determine compensation for the families, but there has been no agreement yet, with Turkey conditioning a deal the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

"As for the relations with Turkey -- the agreement is still far off," Netanyahu's office said.

Israel has recently accused Turkey of harbouring a Hamas militant who orchestrated attacks against Israelis.

*The story was edited by Ahram Online

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