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      Hamas Planning Pre-Election Ceasefire?

      According to reports in Egypt, PA, Hamas is planning an 18-month ceasefire beginning on February 5, five days before Israeli elections.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 1/30/2009, 12:40 PM

      The Palestinian Authority paper Al-Jareeda reported Thursday that Hamas has agreed to an 18-month ceasefire in Gaza proposed by Egypt. The report was based on information from an anonymous Egyptian official.

      Currently Hamas has reduced the frequency of its attacks but is still officially in a state of open war with Israel. According to Al-Jareeda, the official ceasefire would begin on February 5, shortly before Israeli elections.

      The Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency also reported that Hamas had accepted the truce. Hamas leaders will officially accept the ceasefire deal next week, it said, but Islamic Jihad has not yet agreed to accept the arrangement.

      Hamas has stipulated that Israel must open the crossings between Gaza and Israel on the day that the ceasefire begins. The group has approved the presence of international monitors at Gaza crossings. Sources quoted in Ma'an said the opening of Gaza crossings would “greatly reduce” the need for smuggling tunnels, the closure of which is one of Israel's conditions for a ceasefire.

      Hamas continues to reject most of the conditions demanded by Israel. Israel had requested a 500-meter security zone in Gaza and a favorable change in Hamas's conditions regarding the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held for almost three years without Red Cross visits.