Hamas open to cease-fire deal with Israel

Intensifying negotiations in Cairo on a cease-fire deal between Hamas and Israel appeared to bear some fruit Wednesday.

The Islamist militant group said it accepted an Egyptian proposal to end the fighting in Gaza that has killed at least 1,000 Palestinians and, the Monitor reports, is exacerbating the rift between Hamas and its secular rivals in the Fatah Party.

But Hamas still has reservations.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Hamas representative Salah al-Bardawil “hinted that Hamas had generally accepted the terms of the Egyptian proposal but demanded clarifications on several clauses.”

It reported that Hamas wants an end to “Israeli aggression in Gaza, the lifting of the siege on Gaza, the reopening of Gaza's border crossings, the rehabilitation of the strip, and a compensation for Gaza residents.”

Senior Israeli officials will travel to Cairo Thursday to discuss the deal and present their own terms for a cease-fire to the conflict, which is now in its third week.

One of the key stumbling blocks, which may still foil any deal between Israel and Hamas, is how to police the border between Gaza and Israel.

According to Israeli spokesman Mark Regev, quoted in Haaretz, "Israel seeks a durable quiet that contains a total absence of hostile fire from Gaza into Israel and a working mechanism to prevent Hamas from rearming."

The paper said that the Saudi-owned Arabic language Al Arabiya reported that "under the Egyptian proposal, Hamas had agreed to abide by the 2005 agreement which calls for Palestinian Authority forces to man the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt under the supervision of European observers."

According to a Western diplomat who spoke to Reuters, the Egyptian deal could be phased in three parts.

"Initially, the diplomat said, Israeli and Palestinian fighters would abide by a 'lull' in fighting to allow for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to aid Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. Israeli troops could remain in parts of the coastal territory during this phase but would not advance."

"During a second phase, border security arrangements to combat arms smuggling would be finalised and the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt would be reopened under the auspices of European monitors, the diplomat said."

The last phase would be Israeli withdrawal and the opening of all Gaza border crossings if Hamas holds its fire.

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