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US Secretary of State John Kerry Photo: EPA
US Secretary of State John Kerry Photo: EPA
 
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Photo: Reuters
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Photo: Reuters
 
President Shimon Peres Photo: AFP
President Shimon Peres Photo: AFP
 
International Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair Photo: Yogev Atias, Ori Davidovich
International Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair Photo: Yogev Atias, Ori Davidovich
 
 

Kerry to arrive in Egypt for unscheduled Gaza meet

Hamas says deal not expected soon; Peres set to meet with Quartet Representative Blair ahead of possible ceasefire bid which could include Egypt; Arab League to meet later Monday.

Roi Kais
Latest Update: 07.14.14, 19:40 / Israel News

US Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive in Egypt on Tuesday for an unplanned meet with senior government officials, regarding attempts to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Egyptian media sources reported Monday. Meanwhile, Hamas set out its terms for a ceasefire, but said a deal was not close.

 

Meanwhile, President Peres was set to meet Tuesday with International Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair, his office announced.

 

 

Arab League foreign ministers will also meet in Cairo later Monday to discuss Israel's offensive in Gaza Strip. The Arab League meeting comes amid intense international efforts to end the conflict, and with President Mahmoud Abbas seeking UN intervention.

 

Hamas said Monday it would not end hostilities with Israel without concessions by the Jewish state and that no serious efforts towards a truce had been made.

 

"Talk of a ceasefire requires real and serious efforts, which we haven't seen so far," Hamas MP Mushir al-Masri told AFP in Gaza City. Masri said Hamas would only negotiate on the basis of a set of concessions it wants to see Israel agree to.

 

Those include the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners Israel has rearrested after freeing them in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

 

Egypt truce?

The Egyptian foreign minister spoke with Kerry Sunday concerning Egypt's efforts to reach a cease-fire in Gaza Strip.

 

A source in the Egyptian president's office spoke to the local newspaper Al-Watan Monday, and claimed that Kerry was expected to meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi regarding the current escalations in Gaza, though there has been no official confirmation that this was true.

 

The European Union said on Monday it was in touch with "all parties in the region" to press for an immediate halt to the hostilities, a day after Kerry offered to help secure a Gaza truce.

 

Egypt and Qatar were also involved but peace efforts were complicated by Hamas's rejection of a mere "calm for calm" in which both sides hold their fire in favor of wider conditions including prisoner release and an end to Israel's Gaza blockade.

 

An Egyptian-brokered truce doused the last big Gaza flare-up in 2012, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Egyptian President Sisi in a phone call that his country is the most credible party capable of persuading both sides to stand down, an official Egyptian statement said.

 

But Cairo's government is at odds with Islamist Hamas, complicating a mediation bid with the group, an offshoot of the now-outlawed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

 

Asked if Egypt was mediating, Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said only that Cairo was "in close contact with the Israelis and all Palestinian factions as well as with regional and international countries".

 

He said he did not want to predict whether those efforts were moving Israel and Hamas close to a ceasefire.

 

A Hamas politbureau member said Kerry called the foreign minister of Qatar this week, asking him to mediate with the Palestinian movement. A Qatari government source said, however, that Hamas had unrealistic conditions for a ceasefire.

 

"Qatar is the only one that reached out to us," Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq said in Doha. "I wouldn't say it's mediation - it's still too early - they have just opened a line of communication with us, but there is no clear plan on what form of mediation this will be."

 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the second-most potent Gaza faction, have made clear they would not accept a mere "calm for calm" where both Palestinian fighters and Israeli forces stand down.

 

Hamas leaders have said a ceasefire must include an end to Israel's Gaza blockade and a recommitment to the 2012 truce agreement.

 

In addition, Hamas wants Egypt to ease restrictions it imposed at its Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip since the military toppled Islamist president Mohamed Mursi last July.

 

Hamas has faced a cash crisis and Gaza's economic hardship has deepened as a result of Egypt's destruction of cross-border smuggling tunnels. Cairo accuses Hamas of aiding anti-government Islamist militants in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, an allegation the Palestinian group denies.

 

For its part, Hamas leaders said, Israel would have to release hundreds of the group's activists it arrested in the occupied West Bank last month while searching for three Jewish seminary students who it said were kidnapped by Hamas.

 

Reuters and AFP contributed to this report

 

First Published: 07.14.14, 17:52

 

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