Hamas accepts Gaza cease-fire initiative 'in principle'

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Jerusalem, Jan.15 (ANI): The militant outfit Hamas has announced that it has accepted the Egyptian cease-fire initiative "in principle" and that it was now awaiting Israel's response. According to the Jerusalem Post, the announcement came after a Hamas delegation concluded two days of marathon talks with representatives of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service in Cairo.

Hamas denied reports in the Egyptian media to the effect that it had accepted the Egyptian initiative unconditionally.

Jerusalem had no formal response on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were expected to discuss the developments at a meeting Wednesday night.

The three of them are believed to be in agreement on how to respond to the Egyptian proposal.

Barak, according to officials, is in favor of accepting it and ending the operation in the Gaza Strip, and Livni has been advocating a unilateral cease-fire on Israel's behalf. Sources close to Hamas said that while some progress had been achieved in the talks, it was premature to talk about a cease-fire agreement.

They said that the Egyptians put heavy pressure on the Hamas officials and even threatened them against rejecting the initiative.

According to the paper, the Hamas is prepared to accept a short-term cease-fire with Israel, while the Egyptians were pressing for a long-term truce.

The IDF will likely withdraw its troops immediately following the announcement of the cease-fire, officials said.

Israeli officials said the sequence of the events would most likely be as follows:

- An immediate cease-fire

- A withdrawal of IDF troops

- Discussions with the Egyptians on the mechanism to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza

- Discussions on when and how to open up the border crossings. (ANI)

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