Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Egyptian government has called on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to unify their stance on the Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire initiative to end the fighting in Gaza ahead of a forthcoming meeting in Cairo.
A senior Palestinian official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had informed his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas that the joint Palestinian delegation set to visit Cairo to discuss the Egyptian initiative should include representatives of both Hamas and Fatah and “adopt a unified stance.”
Palestinian Authority President Abbas is expected to head the delegation which will include members of the Islamist Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad movements—which continue to fire rockets at Israel—as well as Fatah.
“Egypt is ready to consider the Palestinians’ notes on the initiative into account if Hamas and the [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad movement can reach an agreement on this,” the Palestinian official said.
The Palestinian Authority—the mainstream political leadership in Ramallah—is holding extensive talks with the two Islamist groups in an attempt to reach a consensus and put forward a joint position on the Cairo-sponsored truce.
Once a consensus is achieved, a joint Palestinian delegation will head to Cairo to discuss their modifications to the initiative.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Abbas-led Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, said: “We are making strenuous efforts and are contacting all sides in order to stop the aggression on Gaza and achieve our demands.”
Abu Yousef played down reports that the various Palestinian factions could reach a consensus soon, arguing that “talk of a breakthrough is premature.”
“If a consensus is reached on the basis of a Palestinian initiative which complements the Egyptian one, a delegation will be formed and will then head to Cairo,” he added.
The Palestinian leadership has submitted a draft bill demanding a five-day truce during which the Egyptian-sponsored talks with Israel can be held. It also called for Arab and international guarantees to lift the blockade of Gaza.
The bill also called on Israel to allow Palestinian fishing off the coast of Gaza, release Palestinian prisoners who were re-arrested following their initial release in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and allow supplies and funds to enter the Strip.
“This bill includes every Hamas and Islamic Jihad demand, which also represent the demands of the PLO,” Abu Youssef said.
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad have agreed to participate as part of a single delegation to be named by the president [Abbas],” he said, making clear that “it will take a while until the time is ripe [for the delegation to travel to Cairo].”
The delegation is expected to include Fatah’s Azzam Al-Ahmad, Hamas’s Musa Abu-Marzuk and Islamic Jihad representative Ziad Al-Nakhala, as well as head of Palestinian General Intelligence Brig. Majed Faraj.