Egypt finalising Hamas/Israel truce – claim

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Egypt is finalising details of a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian security source said, amid easing tensions on the border of the enclave where some two million Palestinians live.

Cairo brokered an interim truce allowing commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Adha feast next week.
“We are putting final touches to the terms of the truce that will be signed by all sides and expect to announce the terms next week if Fatah helps us to do so,” the source said, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s mainstream party which dominates the occupied West Bank.

Officials from Fatah have not joined those of Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and other Palestinian factions for talks in Cairo on the long-term truce.

Fatah’s backing is crucial for any deal as the party retains a large presence in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and overall control in areas under Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
“The period of calm will be for a year, during which contacts will be held to extend it for another four years,” the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A long-term truce could pave the way for talks on other issues, including easing of a blockade crippling Gaza’s economy and allowing a possible swap of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.

The source said Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, was expected to meet Abbas in Ramallah after similar talks in Israel and a deal could be announced by next week. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Kamel met with Netanyahu in Israel this week, but gave no details.

A Palestinian source in Ramallah said Kamel left without seeing Abbas, preoccupied with a Palestinian leadership conference. The source said Abbas informed Egypt Fatah representatives would join the Cairo talks later this week or next week.

EASING BLOCKADE

Apart from the opening of its Kerem Shalom commercial crossing into Gaza, Israel expanded the enclave’s fishing zone in waters under Israeli naval blockade from three to nine nautical miles off the southern coast and to six nautical miles in the north, according to the head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union.

The Egyptian security source said the extended truce would also include a sea lane from Gaza to Cyprus under Israeli supervision.

A Palestinian official in Gaza familiar with the talks said Palestinian factions were demanding a “total lifting of the blockade on Gaza, opening all crossings with Israel and Egypt and a water corridor”.

Israel says its blockade is a self-defence measure against Hamas, a group that has called for its destruction.

Israel’s security cabinet, a forum of senior ministers headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed the Gaza situation and an Israeli “diplomatic official” said Hamas would have to prove its commitment to the truce.

As well as wanting calm along the border, Israel said Hamas must return the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war and release two civilians whose fate is unknown. It says they are being held by Hamas in Gaza.
“That’s the only way,” Israeli Regional Co-operation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said when asked if a broad arrangement depended on the return of the soldiers’ bodies.
“Nothing will be done to enable Gaza’s significant rehabilitation and the improvement of infrastructure and ports and other such fantasies, unless they release the bodies and the two Israeli captives,” he told Israel radio.

The Egyptian security source said the long-term truce also envisaged Israel freeing detained Palestinians in a prisoner swap.

The Palestinian official denied any talks were happening on a swap, saying Hamas opposed mixing the issues.



Egypt brokered a Palestinian reconciliation agreement providing for Hamas to cede control of Gaza to Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. A dispute over power-sharing hindered implementation of the deal, but the Egyptian source said Cairo was still seeking progress on the issue.