Hamas accuses Israel of trying to scupper Cairo talks

Hamas accuses Israel of trying to scupper Cairo talks

Representative says Jewish state evading responsibility for 'massacres'; Israel says Hamas breaks truces, can't be trusted, uses Gazans as human shields

An Israeli Merkava tank pulls back from the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel on August 3, 2014. (Flash90)
An Israeli Merkava tank pulls back from the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel on August 3, 2014. (Flash90)

Hamas accused Israel Monday of trying to scuttle truce talks in Cairo, saying the Jewish state refused to send negotiators to avoid questioning over the “escalating massacres” in Gaza.

A Palestinian delegation, which includes members of Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the Palestinian Authority, agreed on Sunday upon joint demands for a truce with Israel, including an end to the Gaza blockade.

Members of the delegation handed the demands on Monday to Egyptian intelligence chief Mohamed Farid Tohamy, the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.

Egypt is expected to relay those demands to the Israelis.

Israel refused to send negotiators to the Cairo truce talks, accusing Hamas of breaching a 72-hour humanitarian truce hours after it began on Friday. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hamas attack in Rafah on Friday morning, over an hour after the US- and UN-brokered truce had gone into effect.

Hamas said on Monday it was Israel which breached that truce and was now trying to foil the Cairo talks.

“The Israeli side is trying to foil the meeting in Cairo by violating the truce,” said senior Hamas official, and member of the Palestinian delegation, Ezzat al-Rishq.

He told reporters Israel is staying away from the talks “because it does not want to bear responsibility for the massacres it has committed” in Gaza.

“Whether the delegation comes or not… it will not run away from its responsibilities. The Palestinian people will pursue them at the ICC (International Criminal Court).”

Israel has said the world should hold Hamas responsible for the deaths in Gaza, because it has emplaced its rocket and tunnel infrastructure in the heart of residential areas, using Gazans as “human shields.”

The Palestinian demands agreed on Sunday include “a ceasefire; Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza; the end of the siege of Gaza and opening its border crossings”.

They have also demanded fishing rights up to 12 nautical miles off Gaza’s coast and the release of Palestinian prisoners demanded by Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“There is a consensus among all the Palestinian factions that Gaza can’t return to a blockade… it is a natural right of the people of Gaza to live [freely] as any other people in the world,” Rishq said.

Israel and Egypt maintain the blockade of Gaza in order to prevent Hamas, which seized control of the Strip in 2007, from importing weaponry.

He said Egypt will “try to press Israel” to accept these demands and that eventually Israel “may change its position and send a delegation at the last moment.”

Azzam al-Ahmed, who is heading the Palestinian delegation, also expressed hope that Israel may still send a team to Cairo.

This could help “Egypt perform its role in halting the aggression and achieving the Palestinian demands through negotiations it is conducting with the two sides,” he told reporters.

The IDF launched the operation in Gaza on July 8 in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire, carrying out hundreds of airstrikes across the crowded seaside territory. It then sent in ground forces on July 17 in a mission to destroy the tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks inside Israel.

Israel has been drawing down its ground operation since the weekend but has kept up its aerial, offshore and artillery bombardments of the strip. Gaza-based sources claim that Operation Protective Edge, now in its fourth week, has left more than 1,800 Palestinians dead. Israel has said that hundreds of those killed were armed combatants. Sixty-four IDF soldiers have been killed as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai national.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report

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