Hamas said on Thursday that “some progress” has been achieved at the indirect talks with Israel in Cairo over a permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior Hamas official who participated in the Egyptian-sponsored talks, said that it would be possible to reach an agreement if Israel “stopped playing with words.”
"Our adversary is accustomed to playing with words and procrastination,” al-Hayeh said upon his return to the Gaza Strip. “But we won’t sign any agreement that does not meet the demands of our people.”
He said that the Palestinian delegation to the Cairo talks held “strenuous” discussions over the past 13 days.
He also dismissed reports about differences among members of the delegation. “Our delegation is unified behind the demands of the Palestinians,” al-Hayeh said. “We are determined to make the enemy pay the price.”
The Hamas official said the Palestinian delegation decided to give the talks another chance by agreeing to a five-day extension
of the temporary cease-fire that ended Wednesday night.
“There is still a real chance to reach an agreement,” he added. “We will continue the dialogue.”
Al-Hayeh said that there was an airport in the Gaza Strip, which was partially destroyed by Israel. With regards to Hamas’ demand for a seaport, he said that previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority talked about the establishment of such a port.
He said that the Rafah border crossing was a Palestinian-Egyptian issue. “We understood from the Egyptians that there will be an easing of restrictions at the terminal,” he added without elaborating.
While some of the Hamas negotiators returned to the Gaza Strip, others headed from Cairo to Qatar for consultations with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
The Islamic Jihad negotiators headed to Beirut for consultations with the group’s leader, Ramadan Shalah.
One of the Hamas officials who travelled to Doha, Izzat al-Risheq, also talked about progress on some issues at the Cairo talks. However, he said that many other issues remain unresolved.
Al-Risheq said that Hamas “foiled” attempts during the talks to confiscate the weapons of the Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip.
Ziad al-Nakhaleh, a senior member of the Islamic Jihad who represented his group at the Cairo talks, said that a permanent cease-fire agreement was eminent.
“We have made progress at the Cairo talks toward lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip,” he said. “We agreed that the border crossings would be opened.”
He said the two sides agreed that the issue of the airport and seaport would be discussed one month after the signing of a long-term cease-fire agreement. He too said that the Palestinians, backed by the Egyptians, rejected Israel’s demand to disarm the various groups in the Gaza Strip.