A high-level Egyptian delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip on
Friday for talks with Hamas leaders on ways of ending the current round of
fighting with Israel.
Minister Hesham Kandil was heading the delegation, which consists of a number
of cabinet ministers, announced Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to an Egyptian request to "cease all offensive operations" during the visit, a senior government official said, on the condition Hamas held its fire.
This visit marked the first to the Gaza Strip by an
Egyptian prime minister.
Nunu expressed appreciation for Cairo’s decision
to dispatch the delegation, saying that the planned visit “reflected Egypt’s
brave stance toward the conflict.”
Kandil’s visit to Gaza is seen in the
context of Egypt’s efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Hamas and
The visit comes as some Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip
expressed disappointment over Egypt’s “mild response to the Israeli
The officials said that they were expecting Egyptian
President Mohamed Morsi to take a tougher stance toward the
“Recalling the ambassador is just a symbolic act,” said one
official, referring to Cairo’s decision to recall its ambassador to Israel for
“We were expecting Morsi to at least threaten to cut off
diplomatic ties with Israel.”
Meanwhile, defiant Hamas leaders continued
to issue threats against Israel in response to Wednesday’s targeted killing of Ahmed
Jabari, the commander of the movement’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, denied that his movement
had asked the Egyptians to broker a cease-fire with Israel.
that the talk about a possible cease-fire was a “new Israeli trick” and that
Hamas was determined to foil Israel’s “goals” against the movement and the Gaza
He said that Hamas’s response to the IDF strikes were aimed at
“setting new features for the nature of the conflict [with Israel].” Israel,
Barhoum added, is “living under an illusion if it thinks that it would be able
to weaken Hamas and the resistance.”
Abu Obaida, spokesman for Hamas’s
armed wing, said that the coming days would be more difficult for
He vowed that his group would continue to launch rockets and
missiles “at the heart of occupied Palestine.”
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to cut short his current tour of a
number of EU countries and return to Ramallah in light of the Hamas-Israel
A PA official accompanying Abbas on his visit to
Switzerland said that the PA president was “following the developments in the
Gaza Strip and making efforts to put pressure on Israel to halt its
Abbas was also scheduled to visit France as part of his
efforts to rally support for his plan to ask the UN later this month to upgrade
the status of “Palestine” to a non-member observer state.
president also called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to
discuss the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip.
In a televised address made
earlier on Thursday, before the announcement that Egypt planned to send a
delegation to Gaza, Morsi condemned Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip as
unacceptable, in his harshest public criticism of Israel since taking office in
Looking more subdued and downcast than in previous speeches, Morsi
appeared ill at ease as he listed steps he had taken to recall Egypt’s
ambassador to Israel and appeal to the United Nations Security
“We are in contact with the people of Gaza and with Palestinians
and we stand by them until we stop the aggression,” he said. “The Israelis must
realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability
in the region.”
It was the first time Morsi mentioned Israel by name in a
Egyptian daily Al-Masry al- Youm also reported Thursday
that Morsi had held an “expanded meeting” to discuss the repercussions of
Israel’s strikes on Gaza.
Those present included Kandil, Minister of
Defense and Military Production Col.- Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sisi and Interior
Minister Ahmed Gamal Eddin, the report said.
Egyptian political parties
also moved to condemn Israel’s strikes on Gaza.
Egypt’s Salafist Nour
party published a statement slamming the attacks and calling on Morsi to “take
additional steps to deter the aggressor.”
The party said that it planned
to give financial and manpower support to Palestinians in Gaza “until all their
rights are achieved.”
Nour also offered its condolences to the
Palestinian people for the deaths of Jabari and others.
The Nour party,
whose stated goal is applying Shari’a (Islamic) law in all aspects of life,
urges Egyptians to follow Islam as practiced by the prophet Muhammad, and aims
at “reforming people’s lives according to the Koran and Sunnah [the practice of
prophet Muhammad],” Hammad told the BBC last year.
According to the
Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, the official spokesman for Nour also called for weapons
to be sent to Gaza to increase the military strength of Hamas.
very well that Israel only understands the language of force,” Yosri Hammad said
on his personal Facebook page, according to Al-Ahram.
criticized Morsi’s move to withdraw Egypt’s ambassador from Israel and to expel
the Israeli ambassador from Egypt, saying it was “insufficient.”
spokesman added that the timing of the Israeli attacks indicated a scheme to
pressure Gazans to flood into Sinai, and take advantage of Egypt’s weak security
in the peninsula.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi
hails, called for mass protests on Thursday and Friday in response to the Gaza
strikes, which it said were a result of Israel’s “criminal aggression,” the
Al-Ahram daily reported.
Saad al-Katatni, the chairman of the
Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said on Twitter late
Wednesday that the Egyptian people “would not accept” the violence against
Presumably referring to Morsi’s election as president, Katatni
added that Israel had not yet understood that Egypt had changed.
calls on Thursday or its statement condemning Israel on Wednesday, the
Brotherhood did not make any reference to the rockets fired from Gaza at
Although Morsi has pledged to respect a three decade-old Camp
David peace treaty that ended a succession of wars with Israel, there have been
growing calls in Egypt to amend the treaty.
One of the most outspoken and
powerful advocates of amending the peace treaty is Morsi’s adviser Muhammad
Esmat Seif El-Dawla, who has argued that Israel could reoccupy Sinai unless the
treaty is altered to allow Egypt greater military presence in the
Questions over Egypt’s ability to properly control Sinai were
raised again on Wednesday, after Israel’s Channel 10 reported that four rockets
that hit the Negev appeared to have been fired from Rafah in Sinai and not from
On Thursday afternoon, Al- Ahram reported that the Egyptian Second
Army was preparing to deal with “any emergency events” in Sinai as a result of
Israeli air strikes on areas of Gaza near the Sinai border.
cited unnamed high-level security sources as saying that the army had put in
place measures to deal with “any acts aimed at the border,” and that border
guards had increased their presence near the Israeli border in accordance with
instructions issued by their commanding officers on Wednesday.
hospitals in Sinai were also standing by, ready to cope with anyone injured near
the border, the report said. •