Hamas denies collapse of Egypt-brokered truce talks with Israel

Spokesman for terror group says efforts continue to reach intra-Palestinian reconciliation, long-term ceasefire with Jerusalem

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. (AP/Hatem Moussa)
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

A senior Hamas official denied Tuesday that Egyptian-brokered talks on reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority and a lasting truce with Israel have collapsed, but admitted progress was slow.

“The efforts of our Egyptian brothers continue on the file of Palestinian reconciliation and the calm with the (Israeli) occupation,” the terror group’s spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

“We in Hamas are responsive to these ongoing efforts.”

Egypt has for months been seeking to broker two separate deals.

One would bring Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah party together a decade after a bloody split, and another would see a lasting truce between Hamas and Israel in exchange for a loosening of the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

UN officials have also been involved in the indirect discussions between Gaza’s jihadist rulers and Israel, which have fought three wars since 2008.

In this Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017 photo, relatives of people who were killed during the internal fighting between Hamas and Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007, sit together for photos after they received checks for 50,000 U.S. dollars during a social reconciliation ceremony in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Abu Zuhri accused Fatah of obstructing the talks, while Fatah has accused Hamas of being intransigent.

A senior Hamas leader told AFP Tuesday that a delegation would visit Cairo to continue negotiations in the coming days.

An Egyptian security delegation traveled to Gaza for a few hours on Saturday for a visit that included a meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

On Sunday, the London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat reported that Egypt had proposed a new framework for Palestinian reconciliation and an Israel-Hamas truce that included an Israeli message to Hamas calling on the terror group to end its weekly protests at the Israel-Gaza border fence and maintain a 500-meter no-go area near the border.

The plan would see control of Gaza revert to the PA, which lost the enclave to Hamas in a violent coup in 2007.

It would also put in place limits on Hamas’s military wing, including the police, judiciary and internal security agencies in the Strip. It also reportedly calls on Hamas to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines in the West Bank and Gaza.

In this photo Ismail Haniyeh, right, the head of the Hamas political bureau, shakes hands with his deputy Saleh al-Arouri, upon his arrival from Cairo, Egypt, in Gaza City, August 2, 2018. (Mohammad Austaz/Hamas Media Office via AP)

Egypt brokered a deal between Hamas and Fatah to bring the West Bank and Gaza under one government in October 2017, raising Palestinian hopes for the possibility of reconciliation. However, the rivals have failed to implement the agreement.

Both Israel and Egypt enforce a number of restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip from arming or building military infrastructure.

Hamas has encouraged months of violent border protests against Israel.

The past week has seen an uptick in the launching of incendiary balloons, after several weeks of what was described as a lull. That followed several months of multiple daily attacks that left thousands of acres in southern Israel scorched and sparked fears of children being injured by bombs placed on balloons or kites and launched over the border.

The security fence has also been the scene of near-daily confrontations in recent months.

Palestinian protesters gather during a demonstration along the Israeli border fence east of Gaza City on September 21, 2018 as smoke plumes billow from burning tires in the background. (AFP/Said Khatib)

The clashes, which Israel says are being orchestrated by Hamas, have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.

Israel says its actions — and in particular the use of live ammunition — are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory.

According to AP figures, more than 130 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the clashes. Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seized control of Gaza in 2007 and seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the Palestinian fatalities were its members.

An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.

Additionally, Israel and Hamas have engaged in a number of brief exchanges of fire in recent months that have seen terror groups in Gaza launch hundreds of rockets and mortars toward Israeli territory, including one in July that was the largest flareup in violence since the 2014 war.

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