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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hamas reports 'cease fire' draft reached

Egypt's al-Ahram newspaper reports on Thursday that Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil claims that a 'cease fire' draft has been reached. But it sounds like there are at least as many open points as agreed points.
Al-Bardawil told state-run Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that the deal would include the opening of the Gaza crossings for 80 percent of goods.

Bardawil said that several issues remained unresolved, among them the type of goods to be allowed through the crossings, and Israel's refusal to allow an international presence at the crossings.

On Wednesday a senior Hamas official told The Jerusalem Post that "obstacles" still remain that are blocking a cease-fire deal.

The Hamas official, Ahmed Yousef, said certain issues still needed clarification, such as whether a cease-fire agreement would last one year or 18 months and how much raw material and goods Israel would agree to allow in through the border crossings with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

"There is still some ambiguity regarding certain issues," Yousef, Hamas deputy foreign minister and the former political adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, said from the office of an Islamic organization in Gaza City.

The foreign ministry building that used to house his office was destroyed during the first week of Operation Cast Lead.


Israel was connecting the negotiations for the release of Gilad Schalit to the talks in Cairo and would likely only fully open the crossings into Gaza after concluding that the negotiations for the soldier's release were on a "fast track," defense officials said.

Israel is also opposed to a cease-fire with a time limit, and has told the Egyptians that if attacked, it will respond with military force.
The issue over what materials are to be allowed into Gaza principally relates to building materials like concrete and metal pipes, which can be used to reconstruct homes but which can also be used to construct rockets.

Haaretz adds:
A key issue in the negotiations is the opening of Rafah crossing [between Gaza and Egypt. CiJ], which Hamas is seeking to have opened completely, with Turkish troops monitoring its operation, in accordance with a plan drafted by the United States three years ago.

Egypt is opposed to such a move, but is nevertheless seeking to place a force loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the crossing, a proposal Hamas has thus far resisted.

Another outstanding issue is the Israeli request to create a half-kilometer buffer zone in the area known as the "security parameter" on the Palestinian side of the border fence with Israel. Israel is seeking to prevent the entry of armed militants to the area to combat the placement of explosive devices or the digging of tunnels there.

Another critical issue involves the link between the release of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit with the lull and the opening of crossings.

Israel is demanding that even a partial opening of the crossings be dependent on progress towards Shalit's release, for example providing a clear sign the soldier is still alive. Hamas has until now opposed such a link. Egypt has expressed uncertainty in relation to its capacity to force Hamas into such an agreement, but promised Israel it would make efforts towards that end.
Arutz Sheva adds:
In the interim, Arabic-language media have reported that terrorist organizations have resumed their military exercises in Gaza. The exercises include simulated abductions of capturing Israeli soldiers. Hamas officials stated Thursday that if a ceasefire agreement will not be reached by Thursday, they would resume their rocket attacks on Israeli cities.

Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) has promised voters that he will topple the Hamas government in Gaza, who he says is run by “Iranian proxy.”

“At the end of the day, there will be no choice but to remove the Iranian threat in Gaza,” Netanyahu said Wednesday night at the Herzliya Conference. “There will be no escape from toppling the Hamas regime which is the Iranian proxy in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said. “This is the real threat we are facing,” he added.

Netanyahu further stated that the Arabs are too weak and divided to accept minimal concessions for any peace agreement. In addition, he said, “Any territory that we evacuate today will be taken over by Iran,” alluding to Israel’s unilateral pull-out from Gaza in 2005, which has led to the Hamas threat that Israel currently faces.
I would not bet on an agreed 'cease fire' before the elections.


At 5:25 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - agreed. Kadima-Labor cannot afford to show weakness before the election. The ceasefire will happen before then only when the crickets start chirping.


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