PA Joins International Effort for Israel-Hamas Ceasefire
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was to head to Turkey to push a ceasefire in Gaza on Friday, after Hamas rejected Egyptian-mediated negotiations and Israel launched a ground operation.
Egypt, under recently-elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has moved to isolate Hamas, accusing it of backing the Muslim Brotherhood on its own territory.
It has worked instead to bolster the role of Abbas - its ally based in Ramallah and "frenemy" to Hamas - in reaching a deal to end Israel's self-defense campaign, which the international community has seized upon after Hamas officials encouraged, and dramatized, civilian deaths.
A senior official with Abbas said the talks, which extended into Thursday night, had stalled over Hamas's insistence on an unprecedented number of conditions which would likely give it time to restock its weapons arsenal - including an international airport and the lifting of a naval blockade.
Amid the diplomatic flurry in Cairo, Abbas was due to meet French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius before heading to Turkey, which has ties with both Hamas and Israel, said the official, Azzam al-Ahmed.
Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, who recently visited Israel on an official mission, was also expected in Cairo.
Abbas held talks with Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq in Cairo on Thursday along with Egyptian mediators, Ahmed said.
"Egypt proposed that Israel open the crossings after the ceasefire," Ahmed said. "Hamas wants it now, they don't think the Israelis will respect this later."
Hamas's multiple rejection of ceasefire attempts, both from Egypt and the UN, has turned the tide somewhat in the international community, even after Israel launched a ground offensive to defend itself from the constant barrage of rockets on its civilians.
Egypt's foreign ministry has condemned the ground incursion but it also lashed out at Hamas, saying the Islamist movement could have saved dozens of lives had it accepted Cairo's proposal.
According to Kol Yisrael radio, the Egyptian government said it was placing the responsibility on Hamas for “the possible deaths of Palestinian civilians”, citing Hamas’s refusal to accept Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire.
The report quoted Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, as having said that had Hamas accepted the ceasefire proposal, it would have saved the lives of at least 40 Gazans who were killed in Israeli airstrikes.
Shoukry further said that Hamas was cooperating with Qatar and Turkey to harm Egypt’s status in the region.
Shoukry’s comments on Hamas echo those made earlier by Egypt’s former Foreign Minister, Mohammed Al-Arabi, who said that Hamas was not serious about a ceasefire – and that the terror group was deliberately trying to embarrass Egypt.
Speaking in an interview in an Egyptian newspaper, Al-Arabi blamed Hamas for not only failing to come to a ceasefire, but for “shedding the blood of innocent Palestinians” by continuing to attack Israel.