Israel, Hamas Reject Efforts to Reach Truce

Israel and Hamas are still intensely fighting despite a U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire. A Hamas spokesman says it's not interested in the cease-fire, because the group was not consulted. Video by AP
By Craig Whitlock and Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 10, 2009

JERUSALEM, Jan. 9 -- Hopes that diplomacy would end two weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip were dashed Friday as both Israel and Hamas rejected international pleas for a truce and also backed away from a French-Egyptian plan to end the war.

Israel dismissed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate and lasting cease-fire, calling the plan "unworkable" because it lacked any guarantee that Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, would stop firing rockets into southern Israel.

Hamas shot more than 30 of the crude missiles into Israeli territory Friday, a slight increase from the day before. No one was killed by the rockets, but they sent a clear message that Israel's offensive has failed to extinguish Hamas's ability to launch attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his military "would go on defending citizens" until the rocket fire ceased and there were firm guarantees it would not resume.

"The firing of rockets this morning only goes to show that the U.N. decision is unworkable and will not be adhered to by the murderous Palestinian organizations," Olmert said.

Hamas said it would not lay down its arms until Israel withdrew its troops and reopened border crossings into Gaza. Israel has imposed an economic blockade on the coastal territory since June 2007, when Hamas forcibly took power in Gaza.

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas representative in Beirut, said the group "is not interested in" the U.N. resolution "because it does not meet the demands of the movement."

Gazans on Friday voiced disappointment that the resolution had not stopped the fighting. "I told my family with lots of hope that this catastrophe would end," said Qassim al-Sayed, 60, who advises students at a university. "But the problem is the United States. They are always with Israel."

The fighting continued as Gazans tried to cope with miserable living conditions that got even worse. "We're back 100 years in 13 days," said Hanan Hanouna, a mother. "There's no electricity. For 10 days we haven't seen water to take a bath."

The unrelenting fighting, she said, had left her despondent. "I have no hope," she said. "You wake up in the morning and you only see death, you only hear death, until you sleep, if you can."

Meanwhile, negotiations stalled over a separate French-Egyptian cease-fire proposal because of disagreements about how to secure Gaza's southern border with Egypt.

Hossam Zaki, a senior Egyptian Foreign Ministry official, said his government is resisting pressure to allow the deployment of foreign forces on its side of the border to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hamas.

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