Palestinians using Egypt to broker cease-fire

High-level Hamas delegation arrives in Cairo; Israel in no hurry to involve international community.

By
March 12, 2012 02:59
4 minute read.
Rockets fired from Gaza

Rockets from Gaza 370(r). (photo credit: Nikola Solic / Reuters)

 
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While Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were actively trying to get Egypt on Sunday to broker a cease-fire as the IAF hit targets in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rockets continued to pound the South, Jerusalem was not fervently campaigning for a cease-fire at that time.

A high-level Hamas delegation headed by Musa Abu Marzouk arrived in Cairo on Sunday for talks with Egyptian officials on ending the violence that erupted after the IDF killed Zuhair Qaisi, the commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, on Friday. As a result, the Palestinians have fired scores of rockets at southern Israel.

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Another Hamas delegation headed by Mahmoud Zahar arrived in Cairo a day earlier for the same purpose. The efforts came as various Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip announced that they would abide by a new ceasefire with Israel.

The announcement followed intensive meetings between leaders of various factions and senior Hamas officials, who made it clear that Hamas was intent on maintaining the period of calm that had prevailed with Israel until last week.

Jerusalem, however, did not seem in any rush to get the international community to step in and stop the fighting.

Furthermore, according to Israeli diplomatic officials, the world was not demanding that Israel stop its military activities inside the Gaza Strip.

According to one official, the lack of international outrage at Israel’s military actions in Gaza is because the Israeli strikes have so far been surgical, and have not caused extensive civilian casualties.

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The official said that the international media has not yet been mobilized because there has not been a great deal of destruction on either side.

“If there is not a great deal of coverage, there is no pressure on governments to intervene,” the official said. He also said that the world’s attention was diverted by the bloodshed in Syria.

The official noted that the current round of fighting was getting only minimal play in the media abroad, a situation Israeli was content with since the more attention on the issue, the more pressure that would be brought to bear on Israel to stop its military actions.

Another government source said that there was very little criticism of Israel’s actions and “not a lot of pressure to stop” coming from the world’s capitals.

“When our strikes are clean, there is little international pressure, because they understand who we are hitting,” the official said. He added that few have any illusions about Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committees.

Nevertheless, defense officials said there were European efforts to arrange a cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Hamas representative Ismail Radwan told the different faction leaders that the Palestinians should not give Israel an excuse to launch military operations against the Gaza Strip.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the Egyptians have been working continuously “to stop the Zionist aggression” on the Gaza Strip. He expressed cautious optimism regarding the prospects of reaching a ceasefire deal, and said the position of the Palestinian armed groups toward a cease-fire with Israel was “positive and responsible.”

They said that most of the victims were members of armed Palestinian groups.

Hamas has not been involved in the latest rocket and mortar attacks on Israel.

However, its security forces did not move to stop the attacks, most of which were carried out by the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip said.

Holding Israel responsible for the repercussions of its “crimes” against the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri advised Israel not to test his movement’s patience.

His statement was seen as a warning to Israel not to target Hamas officials and installations.

“Resistance is a legitimate right of our people,” Masri said, hinting that Hamas would not remain silent if it is targeted by Israel. “Calm will be met with calm.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has also been working toward achieving a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, his aides in Ramallah said on Sunday.

Abbas phoned Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ramadan Shallah to discuss with them the prospects of ending the violence, the aides said.

Also on Sunday, Abbas spoke with Arab League secretary- general Nabil Elarabi about the situation in the Gaza Strip and ways of achieving a cease-fire with Israel.

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed Israel for the escalation and called on the US to halt the Israeli military operations and help to restore calm.

Erekat said the Palestinians have also appealed to the rest of the Quartet members – the EU, UN and Russia – to intervene with Israel to stop the security deterioration. The Quartet is scheduled to meet at the UN on Monday to discuss the stalled Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, a meeting called before the recent escalation of violence.

Meanwhile, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN Haim Waxman sent a letter of complaint Sunday to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and members of the UN Security Council regarding the barrage of rocket attacks, calling on them to “unequivocally condemn” the attacks and do everything in their power to “stop the rocket fire that continues to rain down on Israeli civilians, in violation of every precept of international law.”

Waxman said that Israel sent a letter a few days ago warning “of the dangers of inaction” by the international community.

“We alerted the council that these attacks had the potential to ignite a serious escalation of the conflict, which could affect the entire region,” he wrote. “The events of the last two days have proven the danger of silence on behalf of the international community at large, and the Security Council, in particular.”

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