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Cairo calls for indefinite Gaza truce as fighting rages
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH,TOVAH LAZAROFF
08/23/2014
Abbas says that he has made it clear to Hamas that the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire is the "only initiative in the field."
 
Egypt on Saturday called on Israel and Hamas to agree to a cease-fire of indefinite length and resume indirect negotiations in Cairo.

The appeal comes “in light of the ongoing escalation of military activities in the Gaza Strip and big human and material losses to the Palestinian people,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said.

The appeal came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Cairo with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about ways of ending the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas, who arrived in Cairo after holding talks in Qatar with Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal, told reporters after the meeting with Sisi that Egypt was the only possible sponsor of a cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptians would issue an invitation to the Palestinian delegation to return to the cease-fire talks in Cairo, Abbas said.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not issue a response to the Egyptian call, but Israel’s basic requirement has been that no talks can take place under fire.

Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who is a security cabinet member, told Channel 2 that Israel appeared closer to a second IDF ground operation in Gaza than a cease-fire agreement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday about the significance of continued truce negotiations under Egyptian auspices and urged him to take steps to facilitate those efforts.

The UN would support any agreement reached by Israel and Hamas, Ban told Netanyahu.

According to Ban’s office, the secretary-general “stressed the importance for the parties to establish a durable ceasefire with a view to a resumption of meaningful negotiations on a two-state solution.”

The prime minister told Ban that Hamas had violated the terms of 11 cease-fire efforts during the current war, most recently on Monday, and was therefore responsible for the latest escalation.

“Hamas has violated every cease-fire agreement [this summer] while Israel has abided by them,” Netanyahu said.

He charged that Hamas was committing a double war crime by hiding behind Gazan civilians while firing at innocent Israelis in an attempt to commit mass murder.

In this way, Hamas killed a four-year-old boy on Friday, Netanyahu said.

Israel, in contrast, does not target civilians and retreats when they are harmed by mistake, he said.

In addition, during the conflict Israel has allowed humanitarian assistance and basic goods to enter the Gaza Strip, while Hamas has fired at the crossings through which the goods travel, the prime minister said.

The charters of Hamas and the Islamic State both call for an Islamic caliphate and both terrorist organizations employ the same murderous methods, Netanyahu said.

Islamic State is like Hamas and Hamas is like Islamic State, he said, adding that Hamas, like Islamic State, persecutes minorities.

Meanwhile in Cairo, Abbas spoke with reporters of the possibility of another cease-fire. Such renewed discussions in Cairo would focus on ways of achieving a long-term truce and on other issues raised during the previous rounds of negotiations, the PA president said.

“We must all stop this bloodshed and fighting now and this is our first concern,” Abbas said.

He said he agreed with Sisi on the shape of a “clear and final solution” that would prevent another war in the Gaza Strip. However, Abbas did not say what the solution would look like.

He said the demands of the Palestinian groups would be discussed after a truce went into effect.

Abbas said he has made it clear to Hamas that the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire is the “only initiative in the field and there is no other party other than Egypt that could assume this responsibility.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in response that his movement supported “any real effort to fulfill the demands of the Palestinians.”

Any proposal presented to Hamas would be studied, Abu Zuhri said.

But he did not say whether Hamas would accept an Egyptian invitation to resume the talks in Cairo.

Palestinian officials said on Saturday that Abbas relayed to Sisi Hamas’s acceptance of the latest Egyptian proposals that were presented to the Palestinians shortly before the most recent cease-fire collapsed last on Monday.

The sources told the Rai Al-Youm online newspaper that Israel and the Palestinians were now expected to sign a cease-fire agreement that consists of eight points.

The points include the opening of the border crossings to Gaza, lifting the blockade, reconstruction of the Strip, expanding the fishing zone and limiting the security buffer zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The officials claimed that during his talks with Mashaal and other Hamas officials in Doha over the past few days, Abbas discussed arrangements for placing the border crossings in the Gaza Strip under the control of PA forces.
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