ISRAEL – A senior Hamas official on Wednesday said the terror organization is ready to end the current intensive fighting with Israel, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Deputy Chairman of the Hamas political bureau Moussa Abu Marzouk made the offer during a telephone conversation with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who also oversees Middle East issues.
Abu Marzouk conditioned it, however, on Israel halting strikes and on the international community pressuring the Jewish state to end “military actions” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
Israel is not seeking a ceasefire at this time, according to the army
Abu Marzouk struck a different tone in interviews Wednesday with Hamas-linked media.
“The Europeans contacted us and told us to stop firing short-range missiles, otherwise they would not participate in the reconstruction of Gaza. I told them we will stop our short-range missiles and use long-range missiles instead,” said Abu Marzouk.
Abu Marzouk’s comments came after three days of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip at Israel during which over 1,000 projectiles were launched at the Jewish state, killing five civilians and injuring dozens. An Israeli soldier was killed by anti-tank missile fire on the Gaza border.
The capital Jerusalem and the commercial center Tel Aviv were both targeted as well as towns and cities in the south and central regions. Israel has responded by pounding hundreds of Hamas and other terror group targets, including strikes that killed senior terror organization commanders.
Palestinian terror groups have tied the attacks to rioting in Jerusalem connected to prayer on the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and also the pending eviction of a number of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood amid a court dispute.
According to Russia, Abu Marzouk, speaking on behalf of the Hamas leadership, is ready to stop any military actions against Israel on a reciprocal basis on the understanding that the international community will exert the necessary pressure on the Israeli side to suppress military actions in the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, according to the statement.
Abu Marzouk further conditioned the apparent offer for a ceasefire on the end of what he termed unlawful measures by Israel against Jerusalem’s “indigenous Arab inhabitants.
The phone call was held at the request of the Palestinians, the ministry said. Abu-Marzouk talked about the sharp escalation in violence over the past few days and also raised the issue of the Palestinian families who face eviction in Sheikh Jarrah. He also complained over what he said was Israeli shelling of residential neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip.
Bogdanov stressed the importance of an immediate end to the violence as well as the inadmissibility of attacks on civilians regardless of their nationality and religion, including strikes on civilian targets in Israeli and Palestinian territory, the statement said.
Israeli officials on Wednesday said they had no intention of entering an immediate ceasefire and plan to have the IDF continue striking targets associated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in the Strip in order to both restore deterrence against them to prevent future attacks and to significantly weaken their capabilities.
We are not talking about a ceasefire, certainly not in the coming two days, IDF spokesman Hilda Zilberman told the Kan public broadcaster.
“There is currently no end date for the operation. Only when we achieve complete quiet can we talk about calm,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said during a tour of rocket-hit Ashkelon. “We will not listen to moral preaching from any organization or institution regarding our right and duty to protect the citizens of Israel,” said Hilda.