Zahar: We have 200,000 suicide bombers
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST
Apr. 29, 2008

Israel may have 200 nuclear warheads, but Hamas has 200,000 people who want to blow themselves up inside Israel, Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said on Tuesday.

Zahar, who was speaking to supporters at the Islamic University in Gaza City, said Israel would pay if it rejected the Egyptian initiative for truce with the Palestinians.

"If Israel says no, it will pay a heavy price," he said. "We are a besieged people and we will have to use all our tools to defend ourselves against Israel."

Zahar said he expected Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to brief Israeli leaders next week on Cairo's efforts to achieve a truce.

Once Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal, Zahar said, all the border crossings into the Gaza Strip would be reopened. "The issue of the truce initiative will be determined finally next week," he added. "I believe Israel will accept the initiative, although it will try to drag its feet on some issues."

The Hamas leader pointed out that his movement had accepted a cease-fire with Israel in 2005. "Hamas benefited from that truce and no one can deny this," he said. "Even those who opposed the previous truce have admitted that it was useful."

Zahar criticized Palestinian factions that were opposed to the latest Egyptian initiative, saying some of them had received $1.5 million from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to boycott a Hamas rally against the US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis last November.

Hamas would not agree to the presence of EU monitors at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai, as was the case before June 2007, when Hamas took full control of the Strip, Zahar said. In the past, Hamas said it would agree to the return of the monitors on condition that they lived in the Gaza Strip or Egypt and not in Israel.

Zahar's remarks came as representatives of several Palestinian groups began talks in Cairo over the truce proposal.

The Egyptians summoned the representatives in a bid to persuade them to accept the initiative. Among the groups participating in the discussions are Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

An Egyptian diplomat told The Jerusalem Post that all the groups had agreed in principle to the truce. Cairo was optimistic regarding the prospects of achieving a deal as early as next week, especially since Hamas has already agreed to the truce, he said.

The diplomat confirmed that Suleiman was planning to visit Israel next week for talks with government officials on his discussions with the Palestinian groups. "We are very close to achieving an agreement," the diplomat said. "We believe all the parties are interested in a lengthy period of calm."

Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri said Tuesday that a truce with Israel would not be possible unless all the Palestinian groups agreed to it.

"We won't go to a hudna [temporary truce] unless there is a consensus among the Palestinians about it," he said. "We are aware that some groups are opposed to a truce, but don't believe that the major factions would reject a mutual and comprehensive truce that would end the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip."


Original article: Jerusalem Post
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