- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

2:07 p.m.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Hamas-led government today offered to restore a cease-fire with Israel, several days after calling off the truce to protest a deadly explosion on a Gaza beach, but said the calm would depend on Israel’s response.

Hamas said it is ready to put pressure on other militant groups to halt rocket fire against Israel. The rocket attacks have drawn tough Israeli reprisals and raised the possibility of a broader conflict.

“This is very clear for us. We are interested to keep the situation and quiet, especially in the Gaza Strip,” said government spokesman Ghazi Hamad. “We have contacts with the Palestinian factions. We are ready to do it, but [only] if the Israeli side has a strong intention to respond positively to the call … to stop their aggression.”

Israel welcomed the gesture. “If it is quiet, we will answer that with quiet,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

The Hamas announcement came shortly after the Palestinian information minister arrived in Gaza with $2 million in his luggage, the second straight day a senior Hamas official has hand-delivered money to the cash-strapped government.

Youssef Rizka’s suitcase delivery signaled that Hamas has opened a new front in its battle against international sanctions by taking matters into its own hands — literally. Still, the sums of money brought into Gaza so far are only a small portion of the roughly $360 million it owes in back wages.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar returned to Gaza from a trip to Muslim countries with $20 million in his luggage.

Hamas said the money brought in today came from private donations, not governments. However, a rebuke from the European monitors who work at the border, and concerns that the money could be used for violence, raised questions about how long the practice could continue.

Hamas had said Friday that it would no longer honor the February 2005 truce after eight Palestinian beachgoers were killed in an explosion the Palestinians blamed on Israel. The Israeli army says it wasn’t involved.

Hamas fired several dozen rockets toward southern Israel over the weekend, badly wounding one Israeli. But in recent days, there has been a lull in the Hamas rocket fire.

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