Israeli and Hamas officials denied Thursday that a ceasefire has been brokered in Egypt, dismissing reports by AFP and the BBC quoting an Israeli official who said that a truce would go into effect on Friday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official had told AFP that Israel and Hamas “have agreed upon a ceasefire that will begin at 6:00am tomorrow.”
But a Hamas official swiftly told the BBC, which first broke the story, that no such agreement had been made. Similarly, a different Israeli official rejected the report.
An Israeli delegation flew to Cairo on Wednesday night to coordinate a truce agreement. They sat in the same hotel as the Hamas team, with an Egyptian representative coordinating between them. PA President Mahmoud Abbas was also present in Egypt, and met earlier Thursday with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, as part of efforts to advance a deal.
Egypt’s foreign minister said Thursday that his country’s proposal for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was gaining momentum, calling it the only viable way to stop an “intolerable humanitarian situation” in Gaza.
He also expressed frustration that “Palestinian factions” — a clear reference to Hamas — did not share what he described as Egypt’s “desire… to protect the Palestinian people in Gaza” by agreeing to the initiative.
“The only way to protect the people and to avoid additional bloodshed is acceptance of the plan,” Sameh Shukri said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. “The plan has been widely endorsed by the Arab League, it has been endorsed by the European Union … and it continues to gain momentum in terms of recognition.”
The minister’s remarks came just before Israel and Hamas began observing a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire to allow Gazans to stock up on supplies. The rocket fire during the temporary truce quieted significantly, though three mortars struck southern Israel, violating the agreement.
“We hope that the five-hour ceasefire that has been declared will be extended and that all sides accept the Egyptian peace initiative which is on the table now for several days,” Shukri said.
The plan, announced Monday, requires “unconditional acceptance” of the ceasefire by both sides, to be followed by “unfettered access” to Gaza for humanitarian aid, as well as further talks in Cairo, Shukri said.
The plan was accepted by Israel this week but rejected by Hamas, which said it had never been consulted, a claim Shukri denied.
Egypt “formulated this initiative after very intense consultation which took account of many of the various positions of interest that were expressed by those directly concerned,” he said.
“Had it been accepted by all parties, had it been accepted by Israel, had it been accepted by all factions in Gaza, we would have saved many lives that have been lost unnecessarily,” he said, indirectly blaming Hamas for the continuing bloodshed.