Egyptian FM: Hamas didn't receive arms through us
Aboul Gheit says his country not responsible for weapons obtained by Palestinian group, adds 'Israel had better not blame Egypt for this'. Foreign Minister Livni meets with Egyptian president in Cairo, makes it clear Israel won't turn a blind eye to ongoing rocket fire; Mubarak demands restraint
CAIRO - Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit told Israeli reporters on Thursday that "Hamas is not receiving its weapons through Egypt, and Israel had better not blame Egypt for this."
Aboul Gheit spoke following Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's meetings with him and with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.
"I don’t know how these weapons reached the Gaza Strip," he said firmly, referring to reports on improved rockets obtained by Hamas during the six-month lull, which are now threatening the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod, Kiryat Gat and Beersheba.
Mubarak demanded during his meeting with Livni that Israel exercise restraint despite the heavy rocket fire on Israeli communities. He also demanded that Hamas and the Palestinian organizations stop firing at Israel.
Livni made it clear to Mubarak that Israel would not turn a blind eye to the ongoing firing of rockets at innocent civilians, after Hamas itself declared that the ceasefire was over.
Livni and Aboul Gheit (Photo: Moshe Ben Gershom, GPO)
Three Qassam rockets landed in southern Israel on Thursday morning. One of them caused slight damage to the fence of a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries.
A mortar shell fired at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip in the late morning hours hit the crossing hall's ceiling, not far from a group of 150 Palestinian pilgrims making their way to Bethlehem and several patients headed to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment. The mortar did not explode on impact, but caused damage. There were no injuries in the incident.
'Egypt not responsible for Gaza'
Aboul Gheit said in a joint press conference with Livni that both sides must exercise restraint in order to reach an unofficial lull in the coming days, and then hold negotiations for a written truce agreement.
"I don't think someone believes Egypt and Gaza can be connected," Aboul Gheit added. "We won't claim responsibility for Gaza. The Gaza problem must be solved in peaceful ways. Egypt won’t take responsibility for Gaza, and Gaza won't be rolled over to us. Gaza is the Palestinian Authority's responsibility."
Speaking Wednesday night ahead of her visit to Cairo, Livni stressed that "there is government in Israel. The government has the responsibility and the IDF has the power to alter this reality. Israel will not allow the Middle East to become a neighborhood with bullies, hatred, incitement, and terror.
"I advise Hamas – don't delude yourselves. Our desire for peace and quiet does not soften our will to act in the face of kidnappings and threats. The desire for peace does not quell the desire to act when necessary, and it is necessary now."
Livni was invited to Cairo by the Egyptian president at the beginning of the week, in a bid to prevent a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian mediation efforts have yet to lead to any significant results.
Hamas is boycotting talks with Egypt both on a ceasefire with Israel and on attempts to reach understandings with rival faction Fatah.