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Egypt brokering talks between Hamas and Israel on humanitarian issues

Feb. 19, 2013 9:22 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 21, 2013 5:55 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – For the second time in a week, Israeli security officials visited Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials focusing on the ceasefire brokered by Egypt last year between Israel and the Palestinian factions operating in the Gaza Strip.

A high-level Hamas official told Ma’an that the ongoing Egypt-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Islamist movement do not address “political issues but rather pure humanitarian issues.”

He explained that the talks were meant to consolidate the ceasefire terms and highlighted that Israel has been violating these terms recently on a daily basis.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, dismissed claims that the ongoing talks were related to a comprehensive agreement upon which Israel could end Gaza blockade and open all crossings in exchange for demolishing all smuggling tunnels.

He highlighted that the Egypt authorities started to demolish tunnels unilaterally despite Hamas’ opposition. Hamas, he added, asked Egypt to provide alternatives on the ground to the underground tunnels. “However, the Egyptians are convinced that the tunnels are used to smuggle weapons, but that isn’t true,” added the official.

Asked about the daily announcements by the Egyptians about seizing weapons and explosives, he says there is exaggeration and misrepresentation by Egyptian media: “We control the tunnels and monitor everything that comes in and out.”

According to the source, Hamas submitted through the Egyptians a report about Israel’s violations of the ceasefire agreement in the northern and the southern Gaza Strip. The report also included incidents of shooting on Gaza fishermen, and requested entry of more goods into Gaza, he added.

Also Tuesday, Israeli sources reported that an agreement is being negotiated between Hamas and Israel upon which Israel will end the Gaza blockade in exchange for halting weapons to Hamas. Smuggling tunnels will also be demolished as part of the deal, according to the Israeli sources.

However senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar told reporters Tuesday that there are ongoing negotiations between the Egyptians and Israel. These negotiations are related only to the border crossings agreement, the hunger striking prisoners in Israeli jails, and getting Israel to comply with the ceasefire agreement signed last year.

“We are not negotiating core issues such as land and Jerusalem, but rather humanitarian issues,” he said.

Similarly, deputy chief of Hamas’ politburo Mousa Abu Marzouq denied there were indirect negotiations between a Hamas’ delegation and Israeli security officials through Egyptian officials.

“These are mere lies circulated by the Israelis,” he said.

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