JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel on Friday dismissed as "not serious" a Hamas proposal for a six-month truce in the Gaza Strip that could later extend to the occupied West Bank.
"Unfortunately, this appears not to be serious at all," government spokesman Mark Regev said after the Islamist Hamas movement that controls Gaza told Egypt on Thursday that it agreed to implement a ceasefire.
Regev said that Hamas continued to target Israel and build up its military capacity. "The quiet they seem to be proposing is the quiet before the storm," he said.
Both sides generally refer to a period of "calm" or "quiet" rather than talk of a formal truce.
"Israel is ready for quiet in the south," Regev said, adding however that a truce would only work if Gaza militants stop targeting Israel, Hamas ends its "orchestrated terrorism," and arms smuggling from Egypt into the Palestinian territory is halted.
Hamas said in Cairo on Thursday it would agree to a six-month truce in Gaza if Israel commits to lifting its siege of the Palestinian territory once "the calming takes effect."
It said the truce could then extend to the occupied West Bank after the initial phase.
"Any period of calm between us and Israel must be reciprocal, simultaneous and comprehensive, and must include lifting the blockade and ceasing all aggression," Hamas official Ismail Radwan told AFP.
In the past Israel has rejected a truce covering all of the Palestinian territories, saying that its operations in the occupied West Bank are essential to prevent militants from launching attacks inside the Jewish state.
On Friday, security forces were hunting for Palestinian militants who killed two guards at an industrial complex on the border with the West Bank.
Egypt has been serving as a go-between in the negotiations as Israel considers Hamas a terror group and refuses any direct contacts.
The Hamas proposal also states that if Israel were to reject a truce, Egypt would open the Rafah border crossing.
Rafah, the only gateway to Gaza that bypasses Israel, has been mainly closed since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June.
On January 23 Palestinian militants demolished the border barricades between Gaza and Egypt, sending hundreds of thousands of Gazans flooding into Egypt to stock up on vital supplies.
Egyptian and Hamas forces resealed the frontier on February 4.
Israel has sealed off Gaza to all but limited humanitarian aid since the Islamist group seized control of the territory from forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
On Thursday the United Nations said it was forced to suspend its aid distribution in the impoverished territory after running out of fuel for its delivery trucks.
Israel said it tried to transfer fuel to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but that demonstrators in Gaza prevented tankers from reaching the fuel depot.
The Israelis accuse Hamas of stage-managing the crisis in a bid to stir international condemnation of Israel.
"Unfortunately, we are witnessing once again Hamas attempts to create a crisis situation in the Gaza Strip, on the back of the civilian population," said Colonel Nir Press, who heads the Israeli office for liaison with Gaza.
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