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MacVicar: Hamas cease-fire possible

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CNN's Sheila MacVicar

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GAZA (CNN) -- As Israeli forces sweep through the West Bank town of Hebron rounding up suspected Hamas supporters, the radical militant group is considering a cease-fire. CNN senior international correspondent Sheila MacVicar, in Gaza City, talks to anchor Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: The Israeli army has arrested 130 Palestinians in Hebron on the West Bank, who have suspected ties to Hamas. Twenty-four other Palestinians were detained in other West Bank operations. How close is Hamas to a cease-fire?

MACVICAR: We keep on hearing they may be very close indeed. An Israeli intelligence official telling a Senate committee Tuesday they believe Hamas has agreed in principle to a three-month cease-fire.

Now, of course, Hamas is not the only group involved, but it is the largest group. These talks have been going on for some considerable period of time, and it is clear, we are told from Palestinian sources, that there are some sticking points -- the reason why Hamas and others groups have not yet announced the cease-fire, if in fact they have agreed to it.

One is the return of the body of the Hamas militant killed by Israeli forces in Hebron on Saturday night. That body is still with the Israeli military. Hamas, we are told, wants the body returned and will not make an announcement after Abdullah Kawasme is buried.

We're also told the detentions -- those 130 people you talked about who were detained in the Hebron area, suspected of being Hamas militants by the Israeli forces -- is proving problematic. They apparently will want some more answers to the questions about what precisely will happen to those people.

Now in addition to that, we're told there won't be an announcement here in Gaza, but from Cairo. Some very senior members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leadership -- the exterior leadership which normally resides in Damascus -- we are told are now in Cairo. We heard from the Egyptian foreign minister a while ago saying he believed an announcement might be possible in two or three days.

Of course, now the cease-fire is not the end of it. It is in some ways just the beginning of it, and the expectation on both the part of the international community and of Israel is that that cease- fire would be used to disarm militant groups and not permit them to reorganize and then relaunch terror attacks.

BLITZER: Sheila, the Israelis when I was there with you last week, they kept saying to me that if Hamas agrees to the cease-fire, it's because of the enormous military pressure the Israelis are putting on them, assassinating their leaders, arresting them, going after their targets. What are the Hamas people in Gaza you're speaking to saying? Why would they accept the cease-fire?

MACVICAR: There are many reasons. Certainly the military pressure is one, but there is also tremendous social and public pressure here in Gaza, and on the West Bank. The economies are dreadful. People have been locked up in their homes.

And in Gaza, after the experiences over the last couple of weeks, where, again, you had Israeli Apache helicopters in action over the city streets, people are simply frightened and they are fed up.

All of those things are coming to play, plus it has to be said, there has been an enormous amount of external pressure from the Americans, the Egyptians and others.


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