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Hamas Rejects Egypt's Cease-Fire Plan

This story was written by CBS News' George Baghdadi, reporting from Damascus

The Hamas leadership rejected on Thursday an Egyptian truce plan for the Gaza Strip saying it lacked the "valid basis" that would secure Israel's pull out of the Gaza, reopening all border crossings and lifting the blockade against the Palestinians.

A statement by the Damascus-based ten Palestinian factions, including Hamas, said they "didn't see in the Egyptian initiative any valid basis for any acceptable solution as it includes articles deemed risky for the Palestinian resistance and its future."

It added that the aim of the Egyptian move was "to impose restrict on the resistance movement, blockading it while giving the enemy the free hand. The initiative could only help the enemy achieve the results they are unable to attain so far."

The Palestinian factions said it questioned the participation of Arab parties in the plan, but didn't name these countries.

A two-man delegation of Emad al-Alami and Mohammed Nasr flew back to Damascus on Wednesday night after having lengthy talks in Cairo with Egyptian officials, including intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, to discuss the initiative with Hamas's Syrian-based leadership.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak put forward a truce plan for the ravaged territory late Tuesday aimed at ending Israel's assault which has killed more than 700 Palestinians and ending militant rocket fire.

The plan hopes to install a temporary cease-fire followed by an official truce, the securing of Gaza's border and the opening of crossing points to and from the isolated territory.

The factions reiterated in the statement their demands of "stopping the aggression, immediate withdrawal, lifting the siege and opening the crossing points, particularly Rafah." They also rejected the idea of deploying international observers in Gaza.

Israel, responding to a worldwide outcry over the punishing toll on Gaza's 1.5 million people, suspended its offensive Wednesday to allow humanitarian agencies to distribute relief supplies. Israeli officials said such brief lulls would be declared daily.

It was the first letup in an Israeli assault that has killed more than 700 Palestinians, of whom the United Nations says more than 400 are civilians. Ten Israelis have been killed since the fighting began, three of them civilians struck by continuing Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.

(AP/ESRI/United Nations)

In related news:

  • Lebanese militants fired at least three rockets into northern Israel early Thursday, threatening to open a second front for the Jewish state as it pushed forward with its offensive in the Gaza Strip. Gaza militants fired a rocket barrage into southern Israel almost simultaneously.

    There were no serious injuries in either attack. But the rockets on Israel's north raised the specter of renewed hostilities with Hezbollah, just 2 1/2 years after Israel battled the guerrilla group to a 34-day stalemate. Hezbollah started the 2006 war as Israel was battling Palestinian militants in Gaza.

    Lebanon's government said Thursday it was trying to determine who fired the rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel and stressed that it remains committed to peace.

    CBS News correspondent Robert Berger reports that a Palestinian splinter group is suspected of being behind the rocket fire. The group is not directly linked to Hezbollah and was believed to have been acting independently. The rockets used in the attack were older and not typical of Hezbollah's arsenal, added Berger. (CBS/AP)

  • The United Nations says it is halting all aid deliveries to the besieged Gaza Strip. It is citing a series of Israeli attacks on U.N. staff and installations.

    The announcement came shortly after the driver of a U.N. truck was killed by tank fire as he was headed to an Israeli border crossing to pick up an aid shipment.

    The U.N. said the delivery had been coordinated with Israel. The Israeli army has not commented.

    Spokesman Chris Gunness says aid shipments are being suspended until the safety of U.N. staff can be guaranteed.

    Earlier this week, nearly 40 people were killed by Israeli mortar fire outside a U.N. school. Israel said its troops had come under fire by militants using the building for cover. (AP)

  • Israeli air strikes killed 29 Palestinians on Wednesday after leaflets were dropped warning residents to leave the area "because Hamas uses your houses to hide and smuggle military weapons."

    Ten Israelis have been killed, including three civilians, since the offensive began.

    Thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes, seeking refugee at U.N. schools turned into temporary shelters. (AP)

  • The Israeli military, which has refused to allow journalists into Gaza, permitted two TV teams to accompany soldiers on patrol for the first time. The footage showed soldiers walking through a deserted street in an unidentified location in Gaza.

    The Israeli military correspondent who accompanied the soldiers said they were concerned about Hamas booby-traps. He said they were shooting through walls, throwing grenades around corners, going from house to house looking for Hamas gunmen and using bomb sniffer dogs. Buildings showed bullet and shrapnel marks. "We used a lot of fire," said an officer in the group, Lt. Col. Ofer. (AP)

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