Gaza cleric supports cease-fire with fatwa

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- A leading Islamic cleric in the Gaza Strip has ruled it a sin to violate the recent cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas militant group that governs the Palestinian territory -- according a religious legitimacy to the truce and giving the Gaza government strong backing to enforce it.

The fatwa, or religious edict, was issued late Saturday by Suleiman al-Daya, a cleric respected by both ultraconservative Salafis and Hamas. Salafi groups oppose political accommodations with Israel.

"Honoring the truce, which was sponsored by our Egyptian brethren, is the duty of each and every one of us. Violating it shall constitute a sin," the fatwa read.

The truce, which was struck Wednesday to bring an end to an eight-day Israeli offensive against Gaza militants who fired rockets into Israel, remains fragile. The fighting killed 169 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, and six Israelis.

The spokesman for Gaza's Hamas government, Taher Nunu, told reporters Sunday that Hamas is committed to the truce.

"The government reaffirmed its blessing to the agreement sponsored by Cairo and emphasized that it will work to the internal Palestinian consensus and the supreme national interest," he said, following a government meeting.

Israel is expected to link a significant easing of the blockade to Hamas' willingness to stop smuggling weapons into Gaza, but a top Hamas official said the group won't stop arming itself, suggesting that talks on a new border deal would not go smoothly.

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