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Hamas delegation to talk with exiled leader on Gaza ceasefire
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11:52, April 20, 2008

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A Hamas delegation will visit Damascus Saturday to meet with exiled Hamas leader and talk about reinforcing a ceasefire between armed Palestinian groups and Israel, Palestinian sources said.

The delegation, comprises Gaza-based leaders Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam, will brief Hamas' politburo chief Khaled Mashaal on the results of their talks held in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman over reaching a ceasefire in Gaza.

In addition to the ceasefire, the discussions will focus on lifting the siege that Israel has been imposing on Gaza since Hamas took over the territory by force last June, the sources said.

Zahar and Siam will return to Cairo after two days to meet again with Omar Suleiman whose agency sponsors indirect talks between Hamas and Israel, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported.

The departure of Hamas delegation to Syria comes one day after Mashaal met with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Hamas considers the meeting a progress towards overcoming international isolation imposed by the West on the Islamic movement. Zahar and Siam also met Carter in Cairo when they left besieged Gaza through Rafah crossing.

According to sources, Hamas' delegation will not return to Gazauntil it eliminates all obstacles that prevent the lifting of Israeli sanctions and the reopening of Gaza Strip crossings, especially the gates between Gaza and Egypt in Rafah city.

Mashaal and Carter talked about Gilad Shalit, a soldier who hasbeen held in Gaza since 2006 by Hamas. The corporal's issue complicates the efforts to achieve calmness.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad movement criticized Hamas for looking for ceasefire. "Hamas studies the idea of being engaged in a ceasefire with Israel that is applicable in Gaza only in order to break the siege there, but this will be a big mistake," a spokesman for the movement said.

The Islamic Jihad movement wants the ceasefire to include West Bank.


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