Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Hamas close to agreeing five-year ceasefire with Israel: sources
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Senior Hamas leader Musa Abu-Marzuq speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Gaza City on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Senior Hamas leader Musa Abu-Marzuq speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Gaza City on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Hamas and Israel are close to agreeing on a five-year truce plan, after two weeks of continued discussions between both sides, informed sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The plan, proposed by Qatar and supported by Turkey as well as a number of EU countries and the UN, would see Hamas and Israel declare a five-year ceasefire in exchange for Israel easing its blockade of Gaza, speeding up the process of rebuilding the Strip, and constructing a floating seaport on the Gaza coast. The plan could also be extended beyond the five years.

The sources said Musa Abu-Marzuq, the senior Hamas member in charge of the file, had recently discussed the plan with UN representative Nikolai Miladinov, and that it had been well-received by most of the Hamas leadership.

According to a number of Palestinian, Israeli, and Egyptian sources, Marzuq and other senior members of the group on Saturday headed to Doha, where they will discuss the proposal with Hamas leader Khaled Mishal, who currently resides in the Qatari capital.

Israel has already agreed to help construct the floating seaport, on condition it is overseen by an international organization, the sources added.

NATO, of which Turkey is a member, has reportedly been put forward to monitor the movement of ships and goods into and out of the port.

The sources said Hamas put forward the plan to Israel after it was proposed by Qatar, with Israel making it clear it would only agree if it gained unanimous approval by all Palestinian factions.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has criticized the current ceasefire proposal, saying that only the Palestinian Authority (PA)—the interim Palestinian government which Abbas heads as president—should negotiate directly with Israel.

He has accused Hamas of conducting “secret and unilateral” negotiations with Tel Aviv without consulting other Palestinian groups, in a bid to boost its own international legitimacy and bypass the PA.

Palestinian government sources speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat said the PA was fully aware of the negotiations and has been privy to the details of the discussions. However, it rejects a unilateral deal not including the PA in the negotiation process and warns the truce could lead to Hamas-controlled Gaza splitting from the West Bank and other areas of the occupied territories.

Rafah crossing opened

This comes as Egypt on Saturday agreed to open the Rafah border crossing linking Gaza and Sinai for the first time in three months, amid an apparent sign in improving relations between Cairo and Hamas.

The opening of the crossing came following an agreement between Egypt and Hamas that will see both sides cooperating to oversee the crossing and on issues related to Egypt’s security. Cairo has long maintained the border between Egypt and Palestine has allowed fighters and weapons to reach extremist groups in the Sinai.

Part of the agreement between Egypt and Hamas stipulated the border crossing would be opened for three days but Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has ordered this to be extended until the end of the week.

The agreement also follows a decision by a Cairo court this month to overturn an earlier decision designating Hamas a terrorist organization. Egypt regards Hamas’s parent group the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and relations between Hamas and Cairo reached a nadir after the army ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi in July 2013 following mass protests against his one-year rule.

Egypt brokered the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on August 26, 2014. That agreement ended Israel’s military campaign against Gaza which began more than a month earlier on July 8.

The campaign resulted in the deaths of around 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, with 11,000 injured. More than 18,000 homes were destroyed during the bombardment.