Israel willing to negotiate with Hamas

Jan. 4, 2006 at 2:37 PM

JERUSALEM, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Hamas won't renew a cease-fire with Israel but will extend it three weeks, and Israel has countered with conditions for first-time diplomatic talks.

Israel had previously refused to talk with Hamas because of its support of terrorist attacks in Israel and a mission statement that includes the destruction of the Jewish state.

The Jerusalem Post reports Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said his government will open talks with Hamas if it changes its mission statement and quits violent tactics.

Hamas is gaining ground in the Jan. 25 parliamentary elections in the Gaza Strip as the reigning Fatah party falls out of favor. It is 10 percent behind Fatah in public opinion polls.

A truce mediated by Egypt last year ended Dec. 31. Khaled Mashaal, Hamas' political leader, said the organization would not renew the truce, The Australian reports.

There has not been any violence since then by Hamas. Ismail Haniyeh, the leading candidate in the Gaza Strip, said that would continue at least until the election is over.

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