Talks took place in Cairo yesterday as Egypt attempted to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. However, no agreement was reached and Egyptian officials expressed deep frustration with Hamas.
The Guardian reports that representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Quartet envoy Tony Blair all participated in negotiations which ultimately proved fruitless. During the afternoon, Reuters and BBC reported that an agreement had been reached, but this proved to be unfounded. Earlier in the week, Hamas rejected an Israeli-approved Egyptian initiative which would have seen an end to Israeli air strikes, while Hamas would have put an end to all types of attacks on Israel. Talks on border crossings within 48 hours was also part of the proposal.
Indeed, Egyptian officials yesterday indicated that Hamas’s intransigence was responsible for the failure to agree a truce yesterday too. With no ceasefire in place and rockets continuing to be fired from Gaza, Israel launched a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip yesterday evening. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry subsequently said, “If Hamas had accepted the Egyptian proposal, it could save the lives of at least 40 Palestinians,” adding that, “The parties that oppose the Egyptian cease-fire initiative bear responsibility for the Palestinian blood being shed.” Israel Army Radio reports this morning that Islamic Jihad was willing to accept an Egyptian initiative, but that Hamas remains adamantly opposed to a ceasefire.
Several media reports suggest that Hamas’s core demand focuses on control of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which Egypt has insisted remain largely closed following Hamas’s smuggling of weapons into the Sinai Peninsula. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly suggested that PA forces could man the Rafah crossing to help resolve the impasse. Abbas and Egypt’s President al-Sisi released a joint statement yesterday calling for an “immediate ceasefire to spare the blood of the Palestinian people.” Abbas is set to meet with Turkish leaders today in a further effort to help broker a truce.