Hamas and Egypt are at odds over an unconfirmed cease-fire deal with Israel, Walla! News reports Tuesday - after Cairo refused to add to the terms of its mediation unprecedented 'conditions' tempering the move.
Hamas, which has rejected not one, but three separate ceasefire attempts, called on Israel over the past week to submit to a number of 'conditions' - or demands - in return for an end to the violence against Israelis. The calls were accompanied by threats against the Israeli people, made through a series of weakly-worded text messages.
These 'conditions' include, among other things, greater access to international waters, reopening of border crossings, and relaxation of trade restrictions; release of terrorists who were re-arrested during and after Operation Brother's Keeper earlier this month; and the possibility of constructing an international airport from Gaza. Israel rejects these demands for their potential to re-arm Hamas and enable it to make stronger ties with its Iranian and Arabian contacts.
According to Tuesday's report, Palestinian Authority (PA) "Intelligence Chief" General Majid Faraj and representatives of Egypt met late Monday night to discuss a possible deal.
Faraj, who attended the meeting in Qatar between the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshaal and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, left hastily after the Cairo meeting.
Sources close to the negotiations claimed to the Israeli daily that Hamas's demands are even more than what was leaked to the media last week, and are so pretentious that even Egypt has balked at adding them to terms of the deal.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports continue to circulate Tuesday morning that yet another "humanitarian ceasefire" has been called for a five-hour period, between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm.
It should be noted that Israel has denied these rumors, and has not admitted to being in cease-fire talks with Hamas in any event. However, the existence of indirect contacts, through mediators, is undeniable.
Egypt: fed up with Hamas?
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.
Egypt's foreign ministry has condemned Israel's ground offensive 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 Voice of Israel public 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.
The US and other international powers are also involved with efforts for a ceasefire - intervening in the clash despite the fact that neither side is truly interested in halting the fighting.
"Our goal is to achieve a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible," one senior State Department official told Reuters as Kerry flew to Egypt.
"We don’t expect it will be easy, though. This is a very complicated dynamic.”
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority under Abbas has supported Hamas's demands.
"These are not conditions but engagements that Israel must honor," former Chief Negotiator, Saeb Erekat said Monday.
Last week, Abbas encouraged Hamas to accept internationally-brokered ceasefire efforts - if not in the name of Palestinian Arab unity, then at least specifically to hurt Israel.
"Israel accepted the ceasefire proposal. We (the Palestinians) must also accept it so that we can put the Israeli side at unease," Abbas told a news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul in comments translated from Arabic into Turkish.