Hamas team arrives in Cairo for Gaza truce talks

Hamas team arrives in Cairo for Gaza truce talks

CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
Hamas team arrives in Cairo for Gaza truce talks

In this Monday, Sept. 28, 2009, file photo, Khaled Meshaal, head of Hamas Politburo in Damascus, talks during a news conference following his talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo. AP PHoto

A Hamas team arrived in Cairo on Aug. 3 for talks with Egyptian mediators on a possible truce in Gaza, an airport official and state news agency MENA said.

The delegation is led by senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq, the sources said. Egypt, the traditional broker in conflicts between Israel and Hamas, had invited Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to gather in Cairo to thrash out a durable truce in Gaza based on an Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

Israel, however, has said it will not send anyone to the talks. "Hamas has proven that it breaches any agreement reached right away, as happened five times in previous truces," Israel's deputy foreign minister Tzahi HaNegbi told AFP on Aug. 2.

"It is therefore unclear at this stage what benefit Israel might see for participating in an attempt to reach agreements, based on the Egyptian initiative." Another Palestinian team, including the Palestinian Authority's spy chief Majid Faraj, arrived late on Aug. 2 for the negotiations, which are expected to start later on Aug. 3.

Representatives of militant group Islamic Jihad are also expected in the Egyptian capital as is U.S. Middle East envoy Frank Lowenstein and the Middle East Quartet's peace envoy Tony Blair.

The talks will focus on ways to end the conflict in Gaza, which has so far claimed more than 1,700 Palestinian lives and displaced up to a quarter of the territory's population.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have died since the Jewish state on July 8 launched an offensive to halt rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the army's heaviest toll since the 2006 war against the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The Palestinians are expected to press their demands for the end of an eight-year blockade of Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Aug. 2 that an Egyptian truce plan provided a "real chance" to end the Gaza conflict.

When the latest Gaza war erupted last month, Egypt cobbled together a ceasefire proposal, quickly backed by Israel, Arab governments, the United States and the United Nations. Hamas however rejected it, saying it hadn't been consulted.