Hamas says cease-fire is a 'tactic'

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- The chief of Hamas said Saturday that the Palestinian militant group would accept an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel but it would be a "tactic" in the group's struggle with the Jewish state.

Khaled Mashaal, the Damascus-based Hamas leader, said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television that Egypt had proposed a six-month truce between the Hamas rulers of Gaza and Israel. He said his group was ready to cooperate but added: "It is a tactic in conducting the struggle ... It is normal for any resistance ... to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit. ... Hamas is known for that. In 2003, there was a cease-fire and then the operations were resumed."

He warned of an explosion of violence in Gaza if Israel rejects the truce.

The Egyptian deal would also include a prisoner swap and the opening of Gaza's border crossings. The territory has been virtually sealed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas violently seized control from the rival Fatah faction last June.

Israel is to respond in coming days to the proposal but is skeptical of Hamas' motives, fearing the group just wants to use a cease-fire to regroup and rearm. There was no immediate Israeli comment on Mashaal's remarks.

The Israeli military has said previously it would continue pursuing Hamas militants as long as they threaten Israeli civilians. Hamas and other militant groups have fired hundreds of rockets from Gaza at Israeli border towns in recent years.

Mashaal said Hamas is waiting for the official Israeli response to the truce proposal through Egyptian mediators.

"We are ready to cooperate seriously from a place of power," he said. "If Israel does not accept, then we welcome confrontation," Mashaal said in the interview from Doha, Qatar.

He demanded Israel lift the closure of Gaza's borders.

"If the blockade is not to be lifted from Gaza, then the Gaza Strip will explode," he warned.

Mashaal also spoke Saturday at a news conference in Doha. He said negotiations to swap Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit for Palestinian prisoners were on hold because Israel rejected the list of prisoners that Hamas had offered. Schalit was captured by Hamas near Gaza two years ago.