Hamas team arrives in Cairo for Gaza truce talks

Palestinian delegation arrives in Egypt, despite Israel’s refusal to send representatives to negotiate with the terror organization

Egyptian President speaks in a nationally televised broadcast in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Fady Fars)
Egyptian President speaks in a nationally televised broadcast in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Fady Fars)

A Hamas team arrived in Cairo on Sunday for talks with Egyptian mediators on a possible truce in Gaza, an airport official and state news agency MENA said.

The delegation is led by senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq, the sources said.

Egypt, the traditional broker in conflicts between Israel and Hamas, had invited Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to gather in Cairo to thrash out a durable truce in Gaza based on an Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

Israel, however, has said it will not send anyone to the talks.

“Hamas has proven that it breaches any agreement reached right away, as happened five times in previous truces,” Israel’s deputy foreign minister Tzachi Hanegbi told AFP on Saturday.

“It is therefore unclear at this stage what benefit Israel might see for participating in an attempt to reach agreements, based on the Egyptian initiative.”

Another Palestinian team, including the Palestinian Authority’s spy chief Majid Faraj, arrived late on Saturday for the negotiations, which are expected to start later on Sunday.

Representatives of militant group Islamic Jihad are also expected in the Egyptian capital, as is US Middle East envoy Frank Lowenstein and the Middle East Quartet’s peace envoy Tony Blair.

The talks will focus on ways to end the conflict in Gaza, which has so far claimed more than 1,700 Palestinian lives and displaced up to a quarter of the territory’s population. Israel says hundreds of the dead are gunmen.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have died since the Jewish state on July 8 launched an offensive to halt rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the army’s heaviest toll since the 2006 war against the Lebanese Hezbollah. Eleven of the soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen emerging from tunnels dug into Israel from under the Gaza border.

The Palestinians are expected to press their demands for the end of an eight-year blockade of Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Israel and Egypt maintain the blockade to prevent the importing of weaponry to Hamas-run Gaza.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said on Saturday that an Egyptian truce plan provided a “real chance” to end the Gaza conflict.

When the latest Gaza war erupted last month, Egypt cobbled together a ceasefire proposal, quickly backed by Israel, Arab governments, the United States and the United Nations.

Hamas however rejected it, saying it hadn’t been consulted.

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