Al-Hayat: Israel Would Lift Gaza Blockade for Truce

YERUSHALAYIM -

Palestinian sources say that Israel has agreed to a maritime passage between the Gaza Strip and Cyprus in exchange for a long-term cease-fire of seven to 10 years, the Al-Hayat pan-Arab newspaper, published in London, reported Thursday.

According to the report, which cites Palestinian sources in Gaza, Israel is still strongly opposed to rebuilding the strip’s airport and also rejected a Qatari proposal to build an airport in Israel in exchange for rebuilding the airport in Gaza. In addition, Israel is conditioning the ceasefire on negotiations over the body parts and the Israeli citizens who are being held in the Gaza Strip.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Azhar, interviewed by Al Jazeera Wednesday, said that the hostage issue is under a deep freeze since Israel is still opposed to releasing the prisoners involved in the Gilat Shalit prisoner exchange who were imprisoned after the kidnapping and killing of the three yeshivah students, Hy”d, last summer in Gush Etzion.

According to the report, the proposals arose in the course of meetings between the chief of Hamas’ political bureau Khaled Mashaal and the former Quartet envoy to the Middle East, and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

But a final agreement between Israel and Hamas is still far off, the sources told al-Hayat.

Blair, the newspaper argued, had resigned as Quartet representative in late May so as not to embarrass its constituent bodies — the United States, EU, U.N. and Russia — which officially refuse to engage Hamas as long as it does not recognize Israel, reject violence, and accept previously signed agreements between the PLO and Israel.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office did not initially provide a response to the report.