Hamas accepts offer of Egyptian talks to curtail hostilities

Hamas has accepted an invitation by the Egyptians to participate in talks with other Palestinian factions in Cairo on ways of ending the current cycle of violence with Israel and avoiding civil war in the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories. Meanwhile, sources close to Hamas revealed that the movement has received $50m. in donations from "the people of Yemen." The sum was collected by dozens of Hamas representatives based in Yemen over the past few months, the sources said. The Egyptians believe that a cease-fire with Israel would be possible only after Fatah and Hamas patch up their differences. The Egyptians are also worried that a massive Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip would result in thousands of Palestinians attempting to cross the border into Egypt. Ayman Taha, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, announced that his movement would send representatives from Syria and the Gaza Strip to the talks, which are being held under the banner of "Palestinian national dialogue." On the eve of the talks, representatives of the various Palestinian factions reiterated their demand that any new truce with Israel include the West Bank and not only the Gaza Strip. Hamas will participate in the dialogue to salvage the Mecca Agreement between Fatah and Hamas, Taha said. "We support any effort to consolidate the Palestinian internal front. We must be united in confronting the only enemy we have: Israel." The talks are being held under the auspices of Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman, who has long been playing the role of mediator between Fatah and Hamas. Members of a Fatah delegation who arrived in Cairo over the weekend met on Sunday with senior Egyptian government officials. Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel said he was unaware of a new Egyptian initiative to reach a new truce with Israel. The Egyptians, he noted, are very worried about the continued tensions among the Palestinians. "They want to see stability, especially in the Gaza Strip," he said. Asked about the prospects of declaring a truce with Israel, Bardaweel said: "There is a consensus among the Palestinians that there can be no unilateral cease-fire. If Israel wants a truce, it should be a mutual and simultaneous one. Otherwise, the Palestinians are entitled to continue the resistance." PA negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed hope that the Cairo talks would lead to an agreement over a new truce with Israel. "The truce has become a top Palestinian national interest," he said. "We are holding talks with the EU and UN in an attempt to restore calm. The Palestinians want a truce." Fawzi Barhoum, another Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said his movement does not believe that Israel is sincere about reaching a new truce. "The problem is not with the Palestinians or the truce," he said. "The Palestinians have already offered Israel a long-term truce, but Israel is not interested in stability and security in this region."