Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Turkey and Qatar are trying to secure a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel to end the violence in Gaza, according to Hamas’s top representative in Lebanon.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Osama Hamdan, who is also a member of the Hamas politburo, spoke of “communications with Ankara and Doha to end the Israeli attack on Gaza.”
Turkey and Qatar are seen as more likely to influence a Hamas agreement to a ceasefire plan than Egypt, currently the leader of ceasefire efforts. The two countries are more sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood than Egypt, which has cracked down on the group following months of violence and political unrest.
Hamas has already rejected an Egyptian ceasefire initiative, which Hamdan described as “not in the best interests of the Palestinian people.” He said it also ignored the Islamist group’s terms.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did accept the initiative.
Hamas issued its own ten-point ceasefire plan this week. Among its key demands were the lifting of the siege of Gaza and the release of prisoners, in exchange for which it said a ten-year truce could be possible.
Meanwhile, Cairo has renewed its efforts to secure a ceasefire, and has been seeking backing from any international players that could influence the process.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, speaking at a press conference in Cairo alongside his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, said: “We hope that all sides will support this initiative so that bloodshed stops and this escalation does not get worse. We call on all sides to accept this proposal. We are working to find a framework so that both sides agree.”
On Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas arrived in Turkey as part of a tour that will take him to Bahrain and Qatar.
Abbas will ask Ankara and Doha to use their influence on Hamas to persuade the Islamist group to accept the Egyptian initiative, a member of Fatah’s Central Council, Jamal Muheisen, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Speaking of the fighting on the ground, Hamdan also denied Israeli claims that Hamas fighters were deliberately taking refuge among civilians in order to use them as human shields.
He said: “It is a false claim. The shelling of Palestinian houses did not result in any casualties among Hamas leaders. Rather, all casualties were civilians.”
Israel, for its part, claims it is only targeting tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle weapons and ammunition.
“Destroying the tunnels is nothing but destroying lives of the Palestinians because it is the main gateway for foodstuff and the requirements of life,” Hamdan said.
The fighting has killed over 300 people in Gaza, mainly civilians, as well as one Israeli soldier and an Israeli civilian.