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Hamas Offers New Truce With Israel

The Islamic militant group Hamas said Thursday it is ready to restore its cease-fire with Israel several days after calling it off to protest a deadly explosion on a Gaza beach.

But Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian government, said the offer was conditional on Israel accepting the Palestinians' demand "to stop their aggression."

"This is very clear for us. We are interested to keep the situation and quit, especially in the Gaza Strip," Hamad said. "We are ready to do it, but (only) if the Israeli side has a strong intention to respond positively to the call ... to stop their aggression."

In other developments:

  • For the second straight day, a Hamas government minister returned to the Gaza Strip on Thursday with cash stuffed in his luggage. Fearing U.S. anti-terrorism sanctions, international banks have refused to allow Hamas to transfer money electronically to the Palestinian areas. In recent days, Hamas officials have taken matters into their own hands, physically carrying donations in their luggage. But it's just a drop in the bucket, reports , after the U.S. and Europe cut off nearly a billion dollars in annual aid.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday urged French Jews to send their children to emigrate to Israel, against the backdrop of renewed concerns of anti-Semitism in France. "In the end you have no other country," Olmert said. "There is one which is called the state of Israel. The state is for all the Jews, for our children, for our grandchildren." He did not directly address anti-Semitism in France, except to praise French leaders for promising him they would root it out.
  • A Jerusalem hotel security guard trapped an Arab member of Israel's parliament in a revolving door after the politician refused to undergo a security check, reports Israel's Ynet News Web site. Members of the Knesset customarily do not have to submit to such checks. A Jewish MK arrived during the incident, freed Mohammad Barakeh from the revolving door, and complained to the Crowne Plaza's management.

    Hamas called an end to the February 2005 truce Friday after eight Palestinian beachgoers were killed in an explosion the Palestinians blame on Israel. The Israeli army says it was not involved in the blast; it was caused by a mine planted by Palestinian militants.

    Hamas fired several dozen rockets toward southern Israel over the weekend, but in recent days there has been a lull.

    Israel made an offer he could not refuse, reports . Israel warned that if rocket attacks continue, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas political leaders would be targeted for assassination.

  • The Islamic Jihad militant group, which has never accepted the truce, fired five rockets toward Israel on Thursday.

    Hamas, which opposes the existence of Israel, has killed hundreds of Israelis in 4½ years of violence.

    Palestinian officials said Information Minister Yousef Rizka turned over $2 million to the Finance Ministry.

    Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar arrived with $20 million on Wednesday. That money also was transferred to the Finance Ministry.

    Western donors and Israel have cut off hundreds of millions of dollars of financial transfers to the Palestinians since Hamas won legislative elections earlier this year. They want Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.

    Hamas has refused the demands, despite being unable to pay the salaries to virtually all of the government's civil servants for the past three months. Instead, it has turned to Arab and Muslim countries for help.

    Hamas officials said the money Zahar brought came from "donations" but did not provide a source. Zahar had been to Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, China, Pakistan, Iran and Egypt.

    Rizka was returning from a trip to Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

    Dozens of Palestinian civil servants stormed a parliamentary session on Wednesday to demand long-overdue salaries, attacking Hamas lawmakers and forcing the parliament speaker to flee the building. No injuries were reported.

    Officials have said they expect the money to go to workers' salaries. Observers believe the money will be used to finance Hamas private militias and not salaries, reports Berger.

    Olmert wraps up two days of talks with French leaders Thursday, leaving with mutual declarations of affection but no endorsement for his plan to set Israel's borders with the Palestinians unilaterally if peace talks stay stalled.

    Olmert makes similar entreaties for emigration to Jewish communities in other countries, but the subject is particularly sensitive in France, where fears of anti-Semitism resurfaced this year after the kidnapping and brutal killing of a young Jewish man.

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