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Palestinian leader says Hamas caused prolonged war

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 29, 2014 at 1:32 pm •  Published: August 29, 2014
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Hamas on Friday for extending fighting with Israel in the Gaza Strip, casting doubt on the future of the Palestinian unity government that the Islamic militant group backs, while Israel's premier said the end of the war could mark resumption of peace talks with Abbas.

Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that it is still early to tell "if the new reality" would allow a political process to resume but said he is examining the possibility.

The remarks by the leaders come a few days after Israel and Hamas militants reached a truce after 50 bitter days of fighting.

More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians. Seventy one people on the Israeli side, including six civilians were killed.

Several Egyptian mediated cease-fire attempts during the conflict failed. Hamas eventually accepted almost the same truce offered at the beginning.

"It was possible for us to avoid all of that, 2,000 martyrs, 10,000 injured, 50,000 houses (destroyed)," Abbas told Palestine TV in remarks broadcast Friday. He said Hamas had insisted on discussing demands first before ending the war, which only served to prolong the violence needlessly.

The war began after three Israeli teens were killed in the West Bank by Hamas operatives in June, prompting Israel to arrest hundreds of Hamas members there. Rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli cities then escalated and Israel launched a massive air and later ground campaign in retaliation. Fighting lasted almost two months.

Egyptian mediators tried early on to get the sides to agree to a ceasefire. Several temporary truces were broken by Gaza militants.

"The Egyptian formula was on the table on July 15th, it was backed by the Arab League, it was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas then and now more than a month later has belatedly been accepted by Hamas," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

"As the dust clears from the conflict I'm sure many people in Gaza will be asking why did Hamas reject a month ago what it accepted today, and if it had accepted then what it accepted now, how much bloodshed could have been avoided."

The two sides agreed on Tuesday to an open-ended truce. The cease-fire brought an immediate end to the fighting but left key issues unresolved. Hamas immediately declared victory, even though it has very little to show for the war.

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