Thursday, February 05, 2009
13:15 Mecca time, 10:15 GMT
News Middle East
Cairo talks end without Gaza deal
Hamas and Israel declared separate ceasefires in January, but some violence has
continued [AFP] The latest round of talks between Egypt and Hamas has ended
in Cairo without a final agreement on a truce in Gaza.
Egyptian officials had expressed hopes a deal would be signed on
Thursday, but Hamas negotiators returned to Gaza and Damascus overnight
with a number of issues still unresolved. Despite
the setback, Hamas delegates are expected to return to Egypt on
Saturday and officially accept an at least 12-month truce with Israel.
Mohammed Nasr, a member of the Hamas delegation that travelled to
Cairo, told Al Jazeera that some of the proposals discussed were
brothers in Egypt, they need some time to contact the other side
[Israel] in order to get clarifications and answers to our questions
and issues raised by the [Hamas] movement," he said.
Both sides declared separate ceasefires in January after three weeks
of an Israel assault in Gaza that left more than 1,000 Palestinians
Some rockets have been towards Israel since then, and the Israeli military has
carried out regular air raids in the territory.
One of the key sticking points in reaching agreement is the opening of Gaza's
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Hamas and other Palestinian groups have demanded Israel lifts its
blockade of the Gaza Strip, which prevents even humanitarian aid from
Israel, however, has cited concerns of weapons smuggling into
the territory and says it wants to keep at least a quarter of the
border crossings closed as leverage until Hamas releases Gilad Shalit,
an Israeli soldier captured in 2006.
Hamas has so far refused to link the two issues, saying Shalit will
only be released if Israel frees some of its held members in exchange.
Another sticking point is the length of the ceasefire agreement.
Israel has asked for a 18-month truce, while Hamas has called for a year-long
Salah al-Bardawil, another member the Hamas negotiating team, told
Al Jazeera that while there are still several unresolved issues, he was
confident that a deal would be reached within days.
Furthermore, he said Egypt has pledged to host all the Palestinian
factions, including Hamas, at a conference on February 22 to deal with
such issues as national unity, security and political prisoners.
Source: Al Jazeera
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