CAIRO: Hamas demanded changes yesterday to an Egyptian proposal to end the deadly conflict with Israel in and around Gaza, a Palestinian official said.
Hamas’s demand came as the Palestinian death toll from Israel’s punishing air campaign, now in its ninth day, rose to 220 Palestinians dead after the Islamist movement snubbed the truce plan on Tuesday even though it was briefly respected by Israel.
Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq met Egyptian officials in Cairo and set out the changes being sought, said Azzam Al Ahmad, a senior figure in Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement.
“Hamas has rejected the proposal in its current form and demanded additions, like applying the 2012 agreement concerning border crossings with Israel, and demanded right for fishing up to 12 miles into the sea,” Ahmad told reporters in Cairo.
Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said in Gaza City that the Egyptian plan was rejected “in its current form” and that Hamas had notified Egypt of the changes it was seeking.
“The initiative should include clear wording on fully lifting the blockade on Gaza, including opening all the crossings and releasing the rearrested prisoners from the (Gilad) Shalit deal in the West Bank,” Hamad said.
He was referring to a 2011 deal under which Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants for more than five years, was freed in exchange for scores of Palestinian prisoners.
Earlier this week, Egypt proposed a ceasefire to start at 0600 GMT Tuesday and be followed by talks on easing the flow of goods into Gaza.
Israel initially accepted the Egyptian initiative, but later intensified its air strikes aimed at stamping out rocket fire by Gaza militants after Hamas rejected the plan.
Another Palestinian official said that Hamas and other factions were objecting to the term “hostilities” in the Egyptian initiative, complaining that “what they are doing is self-defence and resisting the occupation, but what the occupation is doing is aggression”.
He said he hoped there would be “meetings between Egypt and the factions as soon as possible to adjust the wording of the initiative and get to a ceasefire”.
The Palestinian president flew into Cairo yesterday to join the diplomatic efforts for an end to the violence.
He held talks with Abu Marzuq, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and Arab League chief Nabil Al Arabi.