The Palestinian group Hamas will not accept any long-term truce with Israel if it does not include lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip, Khaled Meshaal, the group's exiled political leader has said.
"Israel cannot dictate terms for a ceasefire after losing war in Gaza," he told a rally Friday in the Syrian capital Damascus, where he is based.
"We will not accept a truce unless it was in return for lifting the blockade, opening all crossings and a rapid reconstruction of Gaza," Meshaal added.
Israel imposed a heavy blockade on the densely-populated Gaza Strip after Hamas seized it in June 2007 and ousted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah group.
Egypt is brokering a long-term, sustainable ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to continue the fragile calm in the enclave that went into effect Jan 18 following a 22-day military offensive by Israel on Gaza that killed 1,400 people.
Cairo has been trying to get Hamas to agree to a deal that would end Palestinian arms smuggling into Gaza, a key Israeli demand, and to re-open the coastal enclave's border crossing, one of Hamas' key demands.
Hamas officials are due to return to Cairo Saturday to give a final reply to proposals for an 18-month truce with Israel.
Israel continues to seek an open-ended truce and has said that negotiations on the blockade would only follow progress on negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured near Gaza in June 2006.
Speaking before thousands of supporters in Damascus, Meshaal thanked Syria, Iran, Qatar, Sudan, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"We thank all those who helped us, and we say to those who didn't help us - God will settle accounts with them," he said.