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Hamas denies Israeli claims of 5-year truce offer

Hamas denies Israeli media reports that it had offered a five-year truce with Israel in return for lifting the eight-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip
Some 361 Palestinians left the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt on Monday, a Palestinian official says (AA)

GAZA CITY – Hamas on Monday denied Israeli media reports that it had offered a five-year truce with Israel in return for lifting the eight-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas said in a statement that certain international parties had recently proposed such a truce – a proposal, it added, on which it had yet to take a position.

Israel's "Walla" news website cited documents from western diplomatic sources, which, it said, showed that Hamas had proposed a five-year truce with Israel in return for lifting the ongoing blockade.

A Haaretz report said the outgoing United Nations representative to the Middle East has proposed a three-to-five year truce in the Gaza Strip in order to enable the rehabilitation of territory following the summer's 51-day war.

Robert Serry raised the proposal to the Hamas leadership in Gaza last Monday, during his final visit to the territory, according to Haaretz. Serry is winding up his seven-year term as UN special coordinator for Middle East peace, and will be replaced by former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov. 

Serry said that Hamas did not rule out the proposal, but laid down its own conditions - including the lifting of the Israel and Egyptian blockade, Haaretz reported.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, for his part, said that the group had not yet taken a position on the proposal.

"This issue should be treated within the framework of national consensus," Abu Zuhri said.

In August of 2014, Israel signed a cease-fire deal with Palestinian factions following its devastating 51-day military onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip.

The offensive left some 2,160 Palestinians dead and more than 11,000 injured, while thousands of homes across the coastal enclave were reduced to rubble.

Meanwhile, around 361 Palestinians left the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt on Monday, a Palestinian official has said.

A total of 956 stranded Palestinians also crossed the terminal into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, Maher Abu Sabha, head of the Palestinian border crossings authority, told The Anadolu Agency.

He said Egyptian authorities had denied 37 Palestinians exit from Gaza without explanation.

AA could not immediately obtain comments from the Egyptian side on the claim.

Linking the Gaza Strip with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Rafah crossing is Gaza's only gateway to the outside world that is not controlled by Israel.

Egypt has tightened its grip on the border with the blockaded Gaza Strip since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi – the country's first freely elected president – by the army in mid-2013.

The repeated closures of Rafah crossing have made life even more difficult for Gaza's roughly 1.9 million residents, who have groaned under an airtight Israeli blockade since 2007.

Egyptian authorities have decided to reopen the crossing for two days as of Monday.