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Hamas Rejects American Proposal for Easing Israeli-Palestinian Tensions

05 May 2007

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal blasted a U.S. proposal calling on Israel and the Palestinians to take concrete steps toward easing tension and building confidence. Under a four-month timetable, Israel would ease roadblocks and travel restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians would halt rocket attacks on Israel and curb weapons smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.

Speaking at a rally in Damascus, Meshaal called the American plan a farce.

He called on all Palestinians groups to prepare for battle against Israel, saying Hamas would never give up armed resistance in exchange for Israel easing roadblocks.

Hamas is the senior partner in a Palestinian unity government with the more moderate Fatah party, which has expressed support for the American plan. But Hamas has refused to recognize Israel or renounce violence, and Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says Meshaal's comments are therefore no surprise.

"Unfortunately, Hamas with its extremist, hateful positions, with its Jihadist, radical theology is just not ready for peace," he said.

Israel plans to discuss the U.S. proposal at its weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday. Israeli officials say the plan is problematic, because easing travel restrictions could enable Palestinian suicide bombers to enter the country.

Underscoring the difficulties, Palestinian militants fired several rockets at Israel after Israeli undercover troops killed three Islamic Jihad gunmen in a West Bank raid.

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