Egyptian and Palestinian delegates have reportedly reached a new agreement on a draft cease-fire proposal that will be submitted to Israel on Saturday, a Palestinian official told AFP.
According to the official speaking on condition of anonymity, the deal would see the Palestinian Authority and the government in Cairo render control of the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt.
Under the reported terms, Hamas would in effect enact a unity deal signed in April with the PA, entrusting the group's demands for a port in Gaza to the Ramallah-based government for negotiations at a later point with Israel.
Egyptian sources who are intimately familiar with the discussions are quoted by Arab media sources as saying that the sides have reached verbal agreements on a truce that would go into effect Saturday evening, even as Hamas threatens to renew rocket fire against Israel’s most populous areas in the center of the country in response to what it says is Jerusalem’s “obstinacy” in cease-fire talks.
“The launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip toward Israel and the Israeli air force strikes in response to those rockets will cease completely [Saturday evening] in parallel with the arrival of the Israeli delegation to the talks in Cairo and the continuation of negotiations toward a permanent cease-fire,” sources told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds.
Israeli officials have not confirmed the reports that negotiators are on their way to Egypt to rejoin the cease-fire discussions. A defense source in Jerusalem told the Walla! news agency on Saturday that as long as Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza continues, Israel will not be a party to the cease-fire talks.
“We don’t negotiate under fire,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Hamas sources threatened on Saturday to leave the talks if its demands are not met.
“The Palestinian delegation to the talks has notified the Egyptian mediators that in the event Israel continues with its rejectionist stance, it will leave Cairo [on Sunday], which would then enable the factions on the ground to expand its rocket range to include Tel Aviv,” a Hamas official told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.
While the source is believed to be reliable, this statement is perceived as “flexing muscles,” or posturing for the sake of negotiations.
Hamas officials repeated their threat to resume strikes on Tel Aviv on Palestinian television on Saturday.
Sources warned that if Israel did not cooperate with the Egyptian-mediated efforts, the Palestinian delegation would withdraw from Cairo. "If our demands are not met by Sunday, we will attack Tel Aviv," the Ramallah-based Watan TV network reported Hamas official as saying.
The Palestinians are demanding an end to the siege, border crossings to be reopened, and construction material to be allowed entry into the Gaza Strip. Other demands include free passage between the West Bank and Gaza, extended fishing rights, reopening the southern Gaza airport and creating a seaport.
Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said the group was prepared for a long battle, adding that the only way to achieve quiet was for Israel to agree to the group's demands and those of the Palestinian delegation in Cairo. He said that Gaza was no longer willing to be dependent and rely on the border crossings with Egypt, or the Rafah crossing. In an interview with a TV station affiliated with Hamas, he said the group demanded a port to enable the free movement of people and a free flow of trade.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman said in another statement that it was not "going back" on the group's demands, and that "the resistance would continue to fight with "all our strength." He added they were not going to waiver any of their demands.
Palestinian negotiators were still in Egypt's capital to try to reach a lasting agreement, despite the resumption in attacks between Israel and Hamas. The head of the delegation had previously stated that the team was set to continue efforts at brokering a deal, and that the Palestinian factions were united behind their basic demands to end fighting.