Hamas rejects Gaza truce unless blockade ends

Hamas has rejected a ceasefire to end the 16-day offensive against Gaza unless Israel ends its blockade of the strip, its leader Khaled Meshaal has said.

“We reject today … and will reject in the future” a ceasefire before negotiations on Hamas’ demands, which include lifting years of blockade against the Palestinian enclave, Meshaal told journalists in Doha, Qatar’s capital.

Lifting the eight-year blockade is a main demand of Hamas, which also wants the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and Israel to free Palestinian prisoners.

Meshaal’s statement came as the UN Human Rights Council voted to launch an independent inquiryinto Israel’s offensive.

As international calls for an end to the fighting in Gaza mount, Meshaal said that Hamas “welcomes all efforts to end the aggression” and “does not object” to mediation by any party, including Egypt.

“We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices,” he said.

Egypt, whose president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has sought to isolate Hamas in neighbouring Gaza, had tried to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas had rejected the ceasefire proposal which it said was favourable to Israel.

It argues that Egypt’s proposal, which is backed by the United States, United Nations and Arab League, would allow Israel to dictate if and when to ease its blockade on Gaza.

“Let us agree on achieving our demands and we will then agree on the zero-hour for a ceasefire,” Meshaal said.

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