Palestinians to proceed with Cairo talks despite IDF killing of Israeli teens' murderers

Senior Hamas official Zahar condemns killing of Kawasme and Abu Aysha, but says Israel must not be given any pretext "to escape from the commitments" of the August 26 truce that ended Gaza war.

Sisi, Mashaal and Netanyahu (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sisi, Mashaal and Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian delegation to Cairo will proceed with Gaza cease-fire talks, despite Israel's killing Tuesday morning of two Hamas operatives responsible for the kidnapping and slaying of two Israeli teens in June, a senior Hamas leader said.
"After consultations within the Palestinian delegation and brothers in Gaza and abroad it was decided to continue the Cairo meetings," Mahmoud Zahar told Reuters by phone from the Egyptian capital after a member of the team said it was considering withdrawing from the talks.
Zahar condemned the killing earlier on Tuesday of two Palestinians whom Israel said had shot dead three Israeli youths in June. But he said Israel must not be given any pretext "to escape from commitments" of an Aug. 26 truce that called for talks within a month on long-term border arrangements for the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian delegation said the timing of the Hebron raid was intended to undermine the talks. "It comes as part of the stalling of the indirect negotiations to end the suffering of our people," a statement said.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in Gaza that the organization "praises the role martyrs Abu Aysha and Kawasme played in chasing down Israeli settlers and we stress that their assassination will not weaken the resistance."
The governor of Hebron, Kamel Hmeid, confirmed on Palestinian radio that the two were dead.
"It's clear now the two martyrs, al-Kawasme and Abu Aysha, were assassinated this morning during a military operation in the Hebron University area. We condemn this crime, this assassination, as deliberate and premeditated murder," he said.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives headed to Cairo on Monday. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the “exploratory talks” are aimed at reaching permanent understandings and agreements” between the Palestinians and Israel.
The Hamas delegation consists of Mahmoud Zahar, Khalil al-Hayeh, and Musa Abu Marzouk, while the Islamic Jihad team is headed by Khaled al-Batsh and Nafez Azzam.
Fatah leaders Azzam al-Ahmed and Jibril Rajoub were also scheduled to participate in the talks.
Zahar told reporters at the Rafah border crossing that the Cairo talks are aimed at “achieving the Palestinian demands and consolidating the cease-fire.”
He said that the Palestinian delegation would focus on the need to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip and setting an agenda for future talks with Israel.
Another Hamas official, Salah Bardaweel, said that the real cease-fire talks with Israel would begin after the four-day Muslim feast of Id al-Adha, which begins in the first week of October. He said that Tuesday’s talks would focus on setting the agenda for the indirect discussions with Israel.
The Egyptians are also hoping to seize the opportunity of the presence of Hamas and Fatah leaders in Cairo to try to ease the tensions between the two parties.
Under the auspices of Egyptian intelligence officials, Hamas and Fatah representatives are expected to meet before the resumption of the cease-fire talks in yet another bid to end the dispute between them.