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Truce deal between Palestinian factions, Israel to be signed within hours
 
 
Courtesy: Reuters
 

The Egypt-backed deal that is meant to usher in a truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions will be signed by Friday, Ahmed Youssef, a senior Hamas official, tells Mada Masr on Thursday.

Youssef refused to disclose further details about the agreement, stating only that “the specifics are not yet finalized” and that “negotiations are ongoing.” A Palestinian delegation is en route to Cairo, he adds.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a broad overview of the expected deal: a one-year truce, the reopening of border crossings, prisoner exchanges, the expansion of the Mediterranean fishing zone, the rebuilding of Gaza’s infrastructure and a discussion on the possible establishment of a naval port and an airport inside the strip.

According to a source within Hamas, Egypt will hold indirect negotiations with Israel to mediate an open-ended truce, the reopening of the Karam Abu Salem crossing, the return of missing goods, and the expansion of the fishing zone to 12 nautical miles.

The source says the deal will see Qatar financing Gaza’s electricity — in collaboration with Israel — as well as a maritime passage between the Gaza Strip and Cyprus, which will be subject to surveillance by Israeli security agencies.

A leading figure in Hamas, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, says the movement takes the proposed truce seriously, and that it is seeking a long-term agreement “because no one wants more destruction in the [Gaza] Strip.” He blamed the Palestinian Authority (PA) for not pushing for a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, which has been central to the wider conversation surrounding the truce.

Meanwhile, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, Fatah’s military wing, said it will not recognize any peace agreement that does not include the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “Our conditions include [ensuring] complete calm, lifting the siege [on Gaza] fully and rebuilding both the airport and the commercial port.” In a statement, the group declared its support of Egypt’s efforts to push for a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, asserting that it will hang onto “resistance as a strategic option until all Palestinian territories are liberated.”

These developments emerge as reconciliation efforts appeared to have stalled. However, a close adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tells Mada Masr that the Ramallah-based leader “certainly doesn’t mind taking a step toward reconciliation with Hamas, and that he appreciates Cairo’s efforts over the years.”

However, the source says that Abbas does not want to participate in a “symbolic” reconciliation, one that “maintains the separation between the Gaza Strip and Ramallah in reality, with a symbolic presence of the authority in the strip.”

Meanwhile, Hani al-Thawabta, a member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — whose delegation is due in Cairo on Friday — tells Mada Masr that what reports published about the truce, particularly in Israeli media, are “leaks” and contain information that is “inaccurate.”

On Wednesday, United States Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt published a tweet stating that the proposal will not “fully please” the Palestinians or the Israelis.

Abbas’s adviser acknowledged this, adding, “The PA is still determined not to deal with the American proposal, or the US as a sole peace broker,” adding that Abbas will announce his position during possible participation in the United Nations’ General Assembly next month.

Khaled al-Batsh, a member of the Islamic Jihad Movement, says there is consensus among Palestinian factions on the need to push the reconciliation deal forward, noting that it is contingent on Fatah’s endorsement of the Cairo-backed deal.

Fatah leader Mohamed Hegazy tells Mada Masr that the movement is in favor of negotiations, the reconciliation deal, a truce with Israel to lift the siege and the improvement of living conditions in Gaza. He explains that what Fatah wants, above all, is for the Cairo talks to take place with the support and approval of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, pointing to fears within Fatah that Cairo’s proposal favors, in one way or another, the US “deal of the century.”

Meanwhile, a diplomatic source with knowledge on Middle Eastern affairs states,“If Arabs and Americans are unable to pressure the Palestinian president to move forward with the reconciliation agreement, it will be difficult for Israel to uphold the agreement that Cairo aspires to, which includes a long-term truce of five or more years,” and that instead, “the deal will be limited to a one or two-year ceasefire.”

According to diplomatic sources in Egypt, Cairo prefers to conclude all talks ahead of the UN’s General Assembly so that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi can present a complete strategy of the Palestinian file.

According to a European diplomatic source who is following the Palestinian issue, Egypt’s hope to achieve reconciliation in Palestine alongside its brokering of a truce with Israel is linked to a broader Cairo objective: the economic revival of the Gaza Strip, one in which Egypt and the UN play a vital role. This, the source added, would pave the way for the deal that US President Donald Trump wants to endorse, with support from the region’s key US allies, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

During a tour in the region in June, Greenblatt proposed to a number of countries, including Egypt and Israel, the US-sponsored plan to facilitate peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The deal included security and economic arrangements on the border between Egypt and Palestine and the Egyptian-Israeli border, as well as several projects in Sinai.

According to one of the diplomatic sources that spoke to Mada Masr, recent talks between Egypt and Israel — in addition to talks that included representatives from the UN, the US and a number of European countries — succeeded in putting an end to intense conflict.

Last week, an Israeli tank attacked a location near Beit Lahiya, killing two members of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. In commentary on the attack, the Hamas official who spoke to Mada Masr says that there is no guarantee for Israel’s commitment to a ceasefire: “Even though the movement is committed to all the promises it made to Egypt, harassment by Israel has not stopped.”

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Asmahan Soliman 
Beesan Ashraf