Abbas: Egypt to push new Gaza truce

PA president against IDF op in Gaza, says Hamas firing rockets "inefficient;" Livni to meet Mubarak.

abbas mubarak 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
abbas mubarak 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak promised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that he will step up his efforts to renew the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. In Cairo on Tuesday, Mubarak told Abbas that he would exert pressure on Israel to prevent it from launching a massive military operation in the Gaza Strip, a senior PA official accompanying Abbas told The Jerusalem Post. The official said that both Mubarak and Abbas strongly criticized Hamas during the meeting and held the movement responsible for the latest flare-up. The two leaders agreed that the continued rocket attacks on Israel were a "mistake" and said Hamas was responsible for the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, the official said. On the eve of Abbas's visit to Cairo, the state-controlled Egyptian media launched a scathing attack on Hamas and accused its leaders of dragging the region toward the abyss. These broadsides coincided with reports that Hamas was demanding that a party other than Egypt mediate between it and Israel. "President Mubarak is very angry with Hamas," the PA official told the Post following the meeting in Cairo. "The Egyptians see Hamas as a threat to stability in the region." Mubarak, he added, was also angry with Hamas for organizing a series of anti-Egyptian demonstrations against the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Mubarak and Abbas expressed deep concern that an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip would undermine stability in both Egypt and the West Bank, the PA official said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Abbas also dismissed allegations that Egypt was participating in the blockade by refusing to reopen the Rafah border crossing. He said that Israel, not Egypt, was responsible for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Abbas said he was opposed to an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. He also said he opposed the firing of rockets at Israel, saying they were "ineffective." Abbas also expressed his desire to patch up his differences with Hamas and urged Mubarak to resume his efforts to achieve "national reconciliation" between the movement and Fatah. "We agreed with our brothers in Egypt on the need to resume the reconciliation talks with Hamas," he said. "If the talks failed once, they should continue until reconciliation is achieved, because dialogue is in the interest of the Palestinian people." Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, said Tuesday night following a meeting with local council heads in Sderot that "the IDF is prepared for every possible development in Gaza." He also toured the Gaza border with IDF commanders and was briefed on the security situation in the South. Following the security briefing, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant was caught on tape saying to Barak, "The message here is that there is a force ready to do anything that it will be asked to do." Defense officials revealed that the IDF was delaying the deployment of the Golani Brigade along the Gaza border, a move that was scheduled to take place on Monday. Galant and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi have decided to keep the Paratroop Brigade along the border until the situation clears and there is a better idea of where things are headed - to a military operation or another cease-fire. "Now is not the time to switch the troops," one official explained. "The Paratroopers Brigade is already in place, and we need soldiers who will be ready at a moment's notice to fight."