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Palestinian delegation to head to Cairo for ceasefire talks Saturday

Aug. 1, 2014 4:58 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 3, 2014 11:29 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas said he and a Palestinian delegation would head to Cairo on Saturday to discuss "all future steps" regarding the crisis in Gaza, after Egypt announced earlier that it was delaying Friday's ceasefire talks when Israel said one of its soldiers had been captured.

Egypt had announced earlier in the day that it would not accept the Palestinian delegation on Friday when Israel said it "refused" to hold talks after reports emerged that Hamas' armed wing had captured one of its soldiers.

The suspected capture came the same day Gaza militants and Israeli forces were to begin a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire. The truce collapsed, however, when Israeli and Palestinian fire continued after the 8:00 a.m. start time, with both sides blaming the other for breaking the ceasefire. Hamas claims to have captured the soldier early in the morning, before the ceasefire began, while Israel says "initial indication" suggests the capture took place at 9:30 a.m.

Abbas insisted he would go to Cairo regardless of "the security situation" in Gaza.

Qais Abd al-Karim, a leader in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Ma'an that in a meeting 12 officials representing various Palestinian political parties had planned to meet "indirectly" with Israel, using Egypt as a mediator.

He said the Palestinian delegation would be composed of Azzam al-Ahmad, Majed Faraj, Maher al-Taher, Bassam al-Salihi, and Qais Abd al-Karim for the PLO; Moussa Abu Arzouq, Muhammad Nasser, Izzat al-Rashq, and Imad al-Alami for Hamas; and Khalid al-Batsh and Ziyah Nikhala for Islamic Jihad.

Abd al-Karim said that the Palestinian factions had agreed to three main demands: ending the siege on Gaza Strip, releasing prisoners, and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

He said that ending the siege on Gaza would entail the following: allowing the transfer of imports, freedom of movement for Palestinians traveling in and out of the Strip, granting Palestinians in Gaza access to an airport and harbor, and extending the zone in which fishermen are allowed to fish. Under current stipulations, Israel has cut Gaza's fishing zone to three nautical miles despite the fact that Oslo Accords stipulated a limit of 20.

The release of prisoners, meanwhile, entailed the release of those detained throughout the past two months as part of Israeli military campaigns on the West Bank and Gaza, as well as releasing fourth batch of prisoners that Israel agreed to free as a condition of peace negotiations earlier in the year.

An official of the ministry of prisoner's affairs, meanwhile, said that the prisoner release would have to include freeing all lawmakers, most notably Ahmad Saadat and Marwan Barghouti.

Abd al-Karim added that the factions had agreed that the opening of Rafah crossing should only be discussed in Palestinian-Egyptian meetings, but that it could be discussed while the delegations were in Egypt.

A delegation from the United States was expected to be present at the meetings as well.
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