Abbas to Meet Hamas Leaders in Cairo as Strikes Intensify

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is set to meet with Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Moussa Abu Marzouq in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian resistance factions.

Abbas “wants a ceasefire to end the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip,” senior Fatah leader Nabil Shaath told a Wednesday press conference in Ramallah.

Abbas will spend three days in Cairo, and is scheduled to meet with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

Hamas, which hold along with Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees said that it was excluded from the discussions surrounding a ceasefire, has yet to comment on Shaath’s remarks regarding the planned meeting.

“Abbas’ talks in Cairo will focus on a ceasefire and how to stop Israel’s barbaric attack on Gaza,” Shaath said.

“He will then travel to Turkey for a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before heading to the Gulf region,” he added.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas had left Israel with “no choice” but to expand and intensify its operation against Gaza.

Netanyahu’s threat would seem to have been carried out on Tuesday night as Gaza saw the most airstrikes since the operation began nine days ago, according to Palestinian security sources.

The airstrikes were followed Wednesday morning by raids on homes of several senior Hamas members, including Fathi Hammad, and two members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Jamial al-Shanti in Jabalya and Ismail al-Ashqar in Gaza City, attacks some analysts have intepreted as Israel’s attempt to exert pressure on Hamas and other groups to accept the ceasefire proposal.

As Hamas leaders headed to Cairo, diplomatic wrangling around the crisis came from various corners.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Tuesday condemned Hamas for firing rockets “in the face of a goodwill effort to operate a ceasefire”, appeared to have a more inclusive tone on Wednesday, reportedly telling Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers by phone that he hoped a ceasefire deal will bring together all of the parties involved.

Abbas reportedly plans to suggest that Palestinian Authority forces guard the Rafah border and Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt in order to meet the terms of one of several Hamas demands that Israel reopen the Rafah border crossing.

Meanwhile, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested that the EU set up observer missions between Israel and the Strip, similar to operations it implemented at the Rafah crossing in 2005, but were suspended in 2007 after Hamas seized power in Gaza.

Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Althani also met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan on Tuesday to discuss mutual efforts to end the violence in Israel-Palestine.

Ahead of the announcement of the Egyptian-led ceasefire proposal on Monday, a senior Hamas member told MEE on Sunday that the movement has ruled out Egypt as a negotiator and would only consider Turkey and Qatar as potential go-betweens.

100,000 Gazans Warned

Following Tuesday evening’s heavy strikes, the Israeli army warned some 100,000 Palestinians in the eastern Gaza Strip early on Wednesday to evacuate their homes, military sources said.

Eyewitnesses saw flyers dropped over the Zeitun neighborhood southeast of Gaza City, and residents there and elsewhere also reported receiving recorded phone and text messages urging them to evacuate by 0500 GMT.

The flyers explained that the army would be carrying out “aerial strikes against terror sites and operatives” in Zeitun and Shujaiya, since “a high volume of rocket fire at Israel” was from there.

A similar message was sent to residents of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.

“The evacuation is for your own safety,” the leaflet read, warning residents to not return to their homes until further notice.

Similar messages had been sent to Beit Lahiya with a Sunday deadline, causing the exodus of 17,000 people who took shelter in United Nations schools.

Since 8 July, fighters have fired nearly 1,000 rockets and mortars into Israel, and Israeli forces have carried out around 1,500 strikes against targets inside the Gaza Strip, the army says.

Palestinian medical sources said 205 people were killed in the Israeli strikes and 1,500 have been injured.

On Tuesday, the first Israeli was killed by a rocket fired from Gaza at the Erez border crossing.

(Middle East Eye –

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