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Egypt Hopes for Gaza Truce Deal 'in Few Days' - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A Palestinian child plays inside Jabalya kindergarten in the northern Gaza Strip. (R)

A Palestinian child plays inside Jabalya kindergarten in the northern Gaza Strip. (R)

CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt is hopeful that a Gaza truce accord between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas can be reached in the next few days, foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told AFP on Sunday.

“There are positive signs that in the next few days we will reach an understanding on a truce and and a partial reopening of crossing points (into Gaza),” Zaki said.

Egypt has been mediating indirect talks for a lasting truce since the end of Israel’s massive 22-day onslaught on the Gaza Strip, which killed at least 1,330 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

The fighting ended when both Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers called separate ceasefires on January 18.

However, the fragile calm has been tested by Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and retaliatory air strikes.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Hamas said it expected an agreement with Israel on the the reopening of border crossings into the Gaza Strip “within the next few days.”

Israeli and Palestinian officials have been shuttling to Cairo for talks with Egypt’s intelligence chief and Middle East mediator Omar Suleiman, hoping for a truce deal with just two days until Israel’s election.

A Hamas delegation left Cairo on Saturday for talks on the ceasefire and Zaki said the officials would return on Monday.

Israel, which controls all border crossings except Rafah, which is managed by Egypt, has kept the densely populated strip closed to all but essential supplies since June 2007 when Hamas violently seized power, ousting forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Egypt closed Rafah on Thursday, after opening it to aid and to Palestinians who were wounded during the war. Egypt has refused to permanently open the crossing in the absence of EU monitors and Abbas’s representatives.

Hamas officials have said they are seeking clarifications on an Israeli offer to allow between 70 and 80 percent of goods through its crossings into Gaza, barring those it says could be used to make weapons.

Besides opening Gaza’s borders, Egypt’s truce plan also calls for Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah to reconcile and form a government that would be acceptable to the international community.

Hamas has called in the past for the Palestine Liberation Organisation, considered the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in the eyes of the international community and which dominates the Palestinian Authority, to be replaced.

But Mahmud Zahar, thought to be the Islamists’ overall leader in the Palestinian territories, told Al-Jazeera television on Sunday that his group wanted changes to the PLO’s programme, not its structure.

“We want to preserve the structure of the PLO but not its political programme, of which 28 clauses were cancelled” to conform with the 1993 Oslo accords, he said.

The Oslo accords, which paved the way for the creation of the Palestinian Authority, removed clauses in the PLO charter which called the state of Israel invalid because it was created by force on Palestinian soil.

A 2005 accord to restructure the PLO and include Hamas has remained a dead letter because of continued Palestinian factional infighting.

Hamas has said it wants a new structure that would include it and reflect its support in the Palestinian territories.

A Palestinian lights candles as others visit an art exhibition at the Al Quds Hospital, which was heavily damaged in Israel's recent military offensive last month, in Gaza City. (AP)

A Palestinian lights candles as others visit an art exhibition at the Al Quds Hospital, which was heavily damaged in Israel’s recent military offensive last month, in Gaza City. (AP)

A Palestinian man looks at a crater near the border between Egypt and Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (AP)

A Palestinian man looks at a crater near the border between Egypt and Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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