Hamas founder sets Israel truce terms
Israel calls offer 'a positive change'
October 7, 1997
Web posted at: 10:43 a.m. EDT (1443 GMT)
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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (CNN) -- Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the
founder and spiritual leader of the Islamic fundamentalist
movement Hamas, said Tuesday he would forge a truce with
Israel that would end suicide bombings if Israel withdrew
completely from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and removed all
of its Jewish settlements.
"If Israel withdraws completely from the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip and it removes all of its settlements, I will make
a truce with it. You have my word for it," he said.
David Bar-Illan, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the peace overture was "a positive change" despite the "unacceptable conditions."
In the past, militants within Hamas have never indicated a
willingness to negotiate. Instead, they have spoken of a
"holy war" to establish an Islamic state in all of what is
"We would like to hope that it means that (Yassin) will
preach peace rather than violence," Bar-Illan said. "There is
no question he has a following and charisma."
But Bar-Illan said Israel would not pursue a cease-fire
agreement unless Hamas as a group formally abandons its
policy of attacking Israelis and destroying the Jewish
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Israel ignored an earlier Hamas peace proposal just before
Netanyahu approved an assassination attempt of a senior Hamas
official in Jordan last month.
Speaking at his home in the Sabra district of Gaza City,
Yassin also said he had told Israeli officials that Hamas
militants would stop targeting civilians if Israel would do
"If it stops its attacks on civilians, then we are not
prepared to touch civilians," the 61-year-old Palestinian
cleric told reporters a day after his triumphant homecoming.
"In our religion it is forbidden to kill a child, a woman or
an elderly man but when you kill my wife, my daughter, my
son, I have the right to defend myself. We are obliged to do
so in front of the Israeli deeds," he said.
Asked what sort of cease-fire Yassin had in mind, senior
Hamas figure Abdel-Aziz Rantisi said a two- or three-year
truce was possible if Palestinian demands were met, including
Israeli troop withdrawals and release of Palestinian
"After the end of this limited period, Hamas can resist and
fight. This truce for a limited period is not a comprehensive
peace," Rantisi said.
Hamas suicide bombers have killed 24 Israelis in three
suicide attacks this year. Scores of Israelis have been
killed by Hamas militants since Israel and the Palestine
Liberation Organization signed their
historic framework peace deal on September 13, 1993. Hamas
opposes the deal as a sellout of the Palestinian cause.
Yassin, who had served eight years of a life sentence for
ordering killings of Israelis and Palestinian collaborators
during the Palestinian uprising, returned to the Gaza Strip
on Monday as part of a swap worked out following last month's
botched Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan on Hamas
leader Khalid Mashaal.
Israel also freed 20 other Palestinian and Jordanian
prisoners. In return, two agents from the Mossad -- Israel's
secret service -- who were captured after the failed murder
plot were freed and returned to Israel.
In his first public comments on the operation Monday,
Netanyahu indirectly accepted responsibility but insisted
Israel had no choice but to "fight terrorism."
Netanyahu said his Cabinet would set up a special three-man
committee, including former Mossad chief Nahum Admoni, to
investigate the assassination attempt.
Under the auspices of U.S. mediator Dennis Ross, Israel and
the Palestinians resumed negotiations Monday after a
seven-month hiatus during which the peace process was on the
brink of total breakdown.
Ross held a three-way meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli
Foreign Minister David Levy and Mahmoud Abbas, deputy to
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
On Tuesday, lower-level committees were to begin meetings
focusing on resolving disagreements over unimplemented parts
of past Israel-Palestinian accords, such as a seaport and
airport in Gaza and road links between Gaza and the West
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.