Hamas: Israel did not offer us an airport near Eilat

Fatah officials head to Cairo for truce, unity talks.

A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016 (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
A student supporting Hamas holds a Palestinian flag in a rally during an election campaign for the student council at the Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 26, 2016
Hamas denied on Saturday that Israel had offered it an airport near Eilat as part of a long-term truce agreement between the two sides.
The denial came in response to claims by Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy head of the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, who was quoted last Thursday as saying that Israel had offered Hamas an airport near Eilat.
Commenting on Aloul’s remarks, senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk said: “How do we know the reality from fantasy, and the truth from lies? One of the officials (Aloul) said things – half of which are lies. We did not present any idea related to an airport, other than the one in the Gaza Strip.”
The Hamas official was referring to the airport which the Palestinians opened in the southern Gaza Strip in 1998, and which is named after former PLO leader Yasser Arafat. The airport ceased operation in October 2001, after Israel bombed its radar station and control tower, and cut the runway apart in response to terror attacks waged by the Palestinians during the Second Intifada.
Meanwhile, a senior Fatah delegation was scheduled to arrive in Cairo late Saturday for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials on the possibility of achieving a truce between the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The discussions are also expected to focus on Egypt’s ongoing effort to end the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas.
The Fatah delegation is headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, and consists of Hussein al-Sheikh and Rouhi Fattouh.
Majed Faraj, head of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Force, who was supposed to be part of the delegation, will not be able to travel to Cairo due to a health-related issue, Ahmad said on Saturday without elaboration.
The Egyptians, he added, invited the Fatah officials to Cairo to brief them on the outcome of negotiations with Hamas and other Palestinian factions to achieve a truce with Israel.
Representatives of Hamas and several Gaza-based Palestinian groups last week held intensive talks in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence officials in a bid to reach a truce agreement with Israel. The talks are expected to resume in the Egyptian capital in the coming days amid unconfirmed reports that significant progress had been made towards reaching a deal.
Ahmad, the senior Fatah official, said that the PLO was the only party authorized to sign a cease-fire agreement with Israel. The PA government, he added, was ready to assume its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip.
He said the Fatah delegation will seek clarification from the Egyptians regarding reports that Israel was offering Hamas a seaport in Cyprus and an airport near Eilat. The PA leadership, he said, was completely opposed to the two ideas “because there should be nothing outside Palestine.”
Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh on Saturday again attacked Hamas for conducting indirect negotiations with Israel over a long-term truce.
Addressing Hamas, he said: “The negotiations you are conducting only serve Israel and its liquidation-ist goals, as well as its attempt to separate the Gaza Strip [from the West Bank]. Stop these farcical negotiations with Israel and return to the Palestinian home.”
Qawasmeh accused the US and Israel of exploiting the humanitarian situation in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave to impose US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East on the Palestinians, and separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.
Ahmed Majdalani, member of the PLO Executive Committee, also lashed out at Hamas, saying it was not authorized to conduct any negotiations with Israel.
“In principle, the negotiations that Hamas is conducting are illegal and illegitimate,” he told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station.
Majdalani said Hamas’s main objective since its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007 has been to tighten its grip on the coastal enclave and gain regional and international recognition as the de facto government there.
The PA leadership has told the Egyptians that its top priority now was to achieve national reconciliation and “fold the black page of Palestinian division,” the top PLO official said.
He too accused the US of taking advantage of the humanitarian and economic crisis in the Gaza Strip to “meddle in the internal affairs of the Palestinians and pass” Trump’s plan for peace.