Monday, 17 May 1999

In marked shift, Hamas leader talks of a cease-fire

May 17, 1999

By Matthew Kalman


In an interview, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the terrorist Islamic resistance movement Hamas, called last week for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the first time suggested he might recognize Israel's right to exist. But he threatened to continue terrorist activity if there's no movement.

In a major departure from all previous statements of Hamas policy, Yassin said Thursday that the conflict could be ended if Israel withdrew from Gaza and the West Bank of the Jordan River. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 Six-Day War. Yassin offered an immediate end to Hamas attacks on Israeli targets following such a withdrawal and said relations with Israel should be left to future generations to decide.

"We have to be realistic," he said. "We are talking about a homeland that was stolen a long time ago in 1948 and again in 1967.

"My generation today is telling the Israelis let´s solve this problem now on the basis of the 1967 borders. Let's end this conflict by declaring a temporary cease-fire. Let's leave the bigger issue for future generations to decide."

Until now, Yassin has vowed to continue the armed struggle until a Palestinian state was established in all of Palestine, effectively wiping the Jewish state off the map. Only last week, he told the Al-Ahram weekly in Cairo, Egypt, that the notion of Israel living in peace next to an independent Palestine was "a false idea."

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