" Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, has rejected demands for demilitarisation, saying they will never end their armed struggle against the Israeli occupation."
Jerusalem, Sep 1 - Israel's finance minister Sunday called on international leaders to hold a regional summit focused on demilitarising and reconstructing the devastated Gaza Strip.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, however, added that Gaza's reconstruction should be conditional on whether or not Hamas is demilitarised to ensure Israel achieves its diplomatic goals, Xinhua reported.

We had major military achievements and have now moved to the diplomatic front, Yair Lapid told reporters in Jerusalem.

According to Lapid's proposal, reconstruction support should only be given in exchange for a complete disarming of the coastal enclave. Only then can regional and international donor countries, which are scheduled to meet in New York Sep 22, help rebuild the war-torn enclave.

Israel must act before that to avoid a conference in which Gaza gets support and Israel gets nothing, Lapid said.

Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered truce deal Aug 26, after more than 50 days of war that claimed the lives of at least 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.

We need a regional conference with the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Gulf States and representatives of the quartet, he added.

Lapid, a senior member of the Israeli cabinet, said he already got some positive reactions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The prime minister was very positive towards the idea and we are working together and therefore I am optimistic, he said.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, has rejected demands for demilitarisation, saying they will never end their armed struggle against the Israeli occupation.

Israel said it embarked on the offensive in Gaza in order to halt rocket fire targeting its territory, while Hamas has demanded that Israel lift its eight-year crippling blockade on the enclave.


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