CAIRO: Hamas official Mahmoud El Zahar is to travel to Egypt today to meet Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman and give him the group’s answer to the Egyptian proposal of a ceasefire with Israel.
The agreed upon “period of quiet as Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit had previously referred to it, would come with certain stipulations, notably lifting the Israeli siege on Gaza and reopening the Rafah border crossing, according to Palestinian Information Minister Riyadh Al-Maliki.
The conditions are to be taken to the Israeli side by Egypt to see if they will be met.
Al-Maliki told Voice of Palestine radio, “It seems that Hamas wants to get a kind of recognition to its role there [at the Rafah gate] by deploying its forces a few meters away from the Presidential Guards [of the Palestinian Authority].
The Palestinian minister gave his full backing to Egyptian efforts at reaching a ceasefire, stating that the support of the PA, Israel and the US “gives Egypt a green light to keep on its efforts to ensure the calmness.
In a related issue, an Egyptian online news portal reported from diplomatic sources that Egypt had requested from the US that President George Bush delay his next visit to the region until a breakthrough occurred in talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Bush is due to attend the 60th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence on May 18. A summit is scheduled to take place in Sharm El-Sheikh at the end of that month.
Egypt is reported to have told the US that there was no reason to bring the Palestinians – along with Jordan and the Gulf states – to a summit that Israel would not attend or grant concessions in.
Additionally, Egypt apparently also requested that Syria attend the summit, claiming that isolating it would only drive it closer to its ally Iran.
Egypt’s mediation plan consists of Hamas ending rocket fire into Southern Israel, with Israel reciprocating in Gaza, a prisoner exchange of 400 Palestinian prisoners for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and the opening of border crossings between Gaza and Israel.
“I think over time, Hamas will have to change because by not changing they are damaging prospects for Palestinian peace, Aboul Gheit said.