Hamas’s political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal said Friday that talks to mediate a truce between Israel and the terror group are progressing “positively” but an agreement has yet to be reached, according to a report in a London-based Arabic paper.
The report, in al-Araby al-Jadeed, was published on Friday as an excerpt of an interview with Mashaal ahead of a full interview that will be available on the paper’s website on Saturday.
In the interview, Mashaal enumerated five obstacles standing in the way of a long-term ceasefire with Israel — reconstruction of the Gaza Strip; removal of the blockade on Gaza and opening of the border crossings; solving an employment crisis involving some 50,000 unemployed residents of the Strip; allowing the construction of a seaport and airport in the Strip; and building water and electricity infrastructures in the territory.
Mashaal said that when former Quartet envoy Tony Blair brought up the idea of a long-term truce, he responded: “We do not need to calm down and we do not need a truce or new terms. We do not want wars, but the legitimate resistance against the occupation will continue so long as the occupation and settlements continue, but we do not seek wars.”
Reports that Blair has been mediating a truce have been buzzing in the Arabic and Palestinian media over the past two weeks, but Israel this week dismissed them. If contacts between any Israeli persons and Hamas were taking place, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office said this week, they were not sanctioned by the prime minister.
Mashaal’s statements also come in contrast with comments made by former Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh.
When Palestinian groups complained earlier this week that negotiations between Israel and Hamas were effectively leading to the creation of a separate Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip, Haniyeh said he would never accept a Palestinian state “on only 2 percent of the territory.” The Gaza Strip consists of 2 percent of Israel and the West Bank combined.
Mashaal told the paper on Friday that the agreement he was referring to only dealt with the Gaza Strip, not the West Bank, lending some credence to the objections of other Palestinian factions and Haniyeh.
Earlier this week, Hamas official Ahmed Youssef told al-Hayat, an Arabic paper also based in London, that Israel received “a detailed proposal on the truce draft formulated by Tony Blair.”
Youssef said that a Hamas delegation was waiting for Egyptian approval to leave the Gaza Strip for a series of talks with officials from Egypt, Qatar and Turkey on the draft.