A Palestinian woman, hoping to cross into Egypt, cries as she waits with others at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip, August 12, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Offers made to the Palestinian delegation in Cairo where negotiations for a truce with Israel are being brokered do not meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people, Hamas's head of foreign affairs, Osama Hamdan, said.
Hamdan said on his official Facebook page on Saturday that "Israel must accept the demands of the Palestinian people or face a long war."
Israel and the Palestinians agreed on Wednesday to extend a cease-fire agreement in Gaza by five days to continue negotiations on a lasting truce. The cease-fire expires on Monday.
Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal took to the airwaves on Saturday afternoon to weigh in on the five-week-long war embroiling the Gaza Strip and the five-day cease-fire, which was agreed on by both sides on Wednesday.
The conflict in Gaza "was not a war of choice," the Hamas chief told Al Jazeera English in a televised interview. "Not of the Palestinian people and not of Hamas. It was forced upon us."
Pinning the blame for the war on Israel, he said the Jewish State exploited the situation in the West Bank, when three teens were kidnapped and murdered, to attack Gaza for "its own domestic calculations."
"It wanted to take revenge on Hamas and the Palestinian people in Gaza," he stated, adding that the Gazans were defending themselves.
He laid the responsibility for the "bloodshed" – which left "2000 Palestinians dead and 10,000 wounded" – at the hands of the "Israeli occupation."
Mashaal called for an end to the fighting by "meeting the Palestinian demands," namely lifting the siege on the heavily-populated coastal enclave. He accused Israel's leadership of committing war crimes against the Gazan people, and urged the UN and the international community to hold Israel accountable for rendering "300,000 Palestinians homeless, destroying residential areas and tens of thousands of houses," and pounding hospitals, schools and mosques.
Asked about his organization's defense mechanism – firing rockets at Israel's civilian population – Mashaal defended Gaza's right to defend itself, even while facing a "military might that is a million times bigger than ours." He charged Israel with having a moral deficit, "concentrating on killing women and children."
At the same time, on the eve of the resumption of the cease-fire talks in Cairo, Hamas officials said that Egypt’s latest proposals for a long-term truce with Israel were unacceptable.
Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas representative in Lebanon, said that all the proposals presented to the Palestinians during the talks in Cairo do not meet their demands.
“Israel must accept the conditions of the Palestinian people or face a long war of attrition,” he said in speech before students in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
He claimed that during the talks the Palestinian delegation faced attempts to “break its unity.”
Izzat al-Risheq, a Hamas member of the Palestinian delegation, announced that Egypt’s latest proposals concerning a long-term truce with Israel were “unacceptable to Palestinians.”
The Qatar-based official said that the Palestinians didn’t and won’t accept the offers made to them at the Cairo talks.
“The Palestinian delegation has affirmed its rejection of any formula that does not meet the demands of the Palestinian people,” al-Risheq said. “Many of the issues offered by the Egyptians are unacceptable.”
He said that consultations were continuing between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and PLO factions to reach agreement over a final position toward the indirect negotiations with Israel.
Another Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, also sounded defiant over the weekend. In a Facebook post, Abu Marzouk said: “Those who were victorious would not comply with the occupation’s conditions.”
He claimed that Hamas won the war because it prevented the IDfF from entering the Gaza Strip and forced it to withdraw before the cease-fire.
Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan denied that his movement has agreed to postpone the discussion over its demand for an airport and seaport in the Gaza Strip – a demand that was included in the latest Egyptian proposal for a long-term cease-fire.
Bassam al-Salhi, member of the Palestinian team to the Cairo talks, said that the chances of reaching a long-term cease-fire with Israel were “not big.”
He accused Israel of using the talks to “organize and reproduce the siege on the Gaza Strip in a different way.” He too said that the offers made to the Palestinians during the talks “are less than the sacrifices made by the Palestinian people.”
Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Palestinian delegation, said that the Palestinian leadership was expected to hold a meeting in Ramallah Saturday night to discuss efforts to achieve a long-term truce with Israel.
Al-Ahmed said that progress had been achieved during the talks over some issues, while differences remained over others, such as the airport and seaport and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
He said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has made a clear decision that the issue of disarming Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip is non-negotiable now.