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Abbas aide: Talks ongoing with Hamas for Gaza truce

July 22, 2014 10:27 A.M. (Updated: July 23, 2014 6:01 A.M.)
CAIRO (AFP) -- A senior Palestinian official said Tuesday talks were ongoing with Hamas for a truce to end fighting, adding both sides have refused a humanitarian ceasefire.

Azzam al-Ahmed, an aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, landed again in Cairo on Tuesday where he could meet US Secretary of State John Kerry, already in the Egyptian capital pushing for a truce.

Hamas has said it would not accept an Egyptian proposal that calls for a ceasefire followed by indirect talks, insisting instead on firm commitments first to end Israel's eight-year blockade of Gaza.

Abbas, who recently agreed a unity deal with Hamas, met leader Khaled Mashaal in Qatar on Monday bidding to find a compromise.

The two-week-old Gaza conflict has killed more than 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis.

Ahmed said they had recommended that the Egyptian proposal set a timetable of five days of talks after a ceasefire, although Hamas was still refusing.

"According to the Egyptian proposal, negotiations (between Israel and Hamas) should start within 48 hours," he told reporters in Cairo.

Abbas's camp "fine-tuned this so the negotiations last for a duration of five days," he said, adding however that Hamas had shown no interest in this amendment.

"Hamas until now is sticking to its position. But we agreed to continue communicating with them, so we could perhaps agree on a final draft," he said.

Abbas is supported by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose government has blacklisted Hamas and accused the movement across the border of aiding militants in the restive Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt has said it would not amend its truce proposal, initially accepted by Israel before it launched a blistering ground offensive last week after bombarding Gaza for days.

Hamas said that it was not consulted by any official party about Egypt's original ceasefire initiative.

US officials said they were also looking to see if they could encourage changes in Egypt's proposal to secure the backing of Hamas, which says Israel has reneged on previous agreements.

Both sides have refused another humanitarian lull, Ahmed said, as Israeli soldiers and Hamas gunmen fought in close quarters in parts of the densely populated Gaza.
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