Palestinians give Egypt mediators Gaza truce demands
Cairo: A Palestinian delegation including Hamas agreed joint demands on Sunday to present to Egyptian mediators in Cairo for a truce with Israel, including an end to the Gaza blockade, officials said.
The delegation, which includes members of president Mahmud Abbas`s Palestinian Authority and Gaza`s Hamas rulers, will meet the Egyptian mediators later today.
Cairo will then relay the demands to Israel, which baulked at sending negotiators after accusing Hamas of breaching a 72-hour truce moments after it began on Friday.
The Palestinians, who met earlier on Sunday to hammer out a joint position, agreed on "a ceasefire; Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza; the end of the siege of Gaza and opening its border crossings," said Maher al-Taher, a member of the delegation.
The Palestinian demands also include fishing rights up to 12 nautical miles off Gaza`s coast and the release of Palestinian prisoners demanded by Hamas and Abbas, said Taher, a senior official with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
A Hamas official confirmed the agreement, saying, "These are the main points, but they must be discussed with the Egyptians. We hope things go smoothly."
Cairo, a traditional broker in Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, has moved to isolate Hamas on its eastern border after the Egyptian military overthrew the Islamist government last year.
Egypt had proposed an unconditional ceasefire followed by talks between Israel and Hamas early into the 27-day conflict, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to an emergency services spokesman in Gaza.
Since the fighting began, 66 Israelis have been killed, 64 of them soldiers.
Hamas had rejected the initial Egyptian initiative, saying it was not consulted and that that plan did not guarantee an end to Israel`s eight-year blockade of Gaza.
Analysts say the Islamist militants will be hard-pressed to emerge from the devastating conflict with a political victory that Israel is determined to deny them.
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