Abbas backs Hamas’ terms for Gaza ceasefire

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires towards the Gaza Strip July 21, 2014.

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires towards the Gaza Strip July 21, 2014.

U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday endorsed Hamas’ demands for a ceasefire in Gaza, where officials said 624 Palestinians have been killed in 15 days of fighting, Reuters news agency reported.

In a move that could effectively turn Abbas into the main interlocutor for a Gaza truce, his umbrella Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) formally supported core conditions set by the Hamas-led fighters.

“The Gaza demands of stopping the aggression and lifting the blockade in all its forms are the demands of the entire Palestinian people and they represent the goal that the Palestinian leadership has dedicated all its power to achieve,” senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo was quoted as saying by Reuters in Ramallah.

Abed Rabbo also stated that Abbas pushed for a truce followed by a five-day negotiation period.

Nor Hamas or Israel has responded to the PLO’s statements.

Hamas rejected Saturday a truce negotiated by Egyptian officials because it ignored the Islamist movement’s terms.

The current Egyptian government is believed to distrust Hamas due to its links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Reuters says was a reason behind complications to the ceasefire. Since then, Hamas has turned to Turkey and Qatar to mediate a deal with the Israelis.

Tensions are rooted in turmoil in Egypt over the past year. Hamas is a key ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt’s government has branded a terrorist organization since the military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Mursi last summer. Egyptian authorities have been cracking down hard on Mursi’s Brotherhood and accuse Hamas of helping Islamic militants waging a campaign of violence in Egypt, a claim the group denies.

Egypt also has tightened the closure on Gaza by destroying smuggling tunnels under the border that were largely propping up the strip’s economy. That has thrown Hamas into a financial crisis.

Turkey and Qatar were also close allies of Mursi and the Brotherhood – and the result has been deep tensions between them and the government of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief that ousted Mursi.

The ceasefire plan put forth by Egypt now is virtually identical to one presented by Mursi during the last round of Gaza fighting. At the time, both sides accepted the accord, and Mursi was lauded for his mediation. Now, however, there is not only deep mistrust in the way, but also increased Hamas expectations for an end to the stifling blockade.

 
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