DAMASCUS/CAIRO: Palestinian groups based in Syria, including Hamas, believe the Egyptian plan aimed at securing a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip “has no valid basis, a Palestinian official said on Thursday.
“Palestinian organizations, notably Hamas, see no valid basis in the Egyptian plan for a solution to the crisis in Gaza, Khaled Abdel-Majid, spokesman for Palestinian groups based in Damascus, told AFP.
He said the common position came after a meeting of eight Palestinian movements based in the Syrian capital.
“The Franco-Egyptian initiative does not contribute towards finding a solution since it is a threat to the resistance and the Palestinian cause, allowing the enemy to continue its aggression, the groups said in a statement.
The Damascus-based movements “reject the presence of international forces or observers in Gaza, since this is aimed at defending the security of the occupation and reinforcing the blockade against the resistance.
Israel had imposed a complete blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas took over the Strip 17 months ago leading to a humanitarian crisis.
The statement called for “a halt to the aggression, a withdrawal (of Israeli forces) without delay, lifting the blockade and opening the crossing points, especially at Rafah on the border with Egypt.
President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday had presented a three-point proposal for ending the Gaza conflict, in which over 700 Palestinians have been killed and some 3000 wounded since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on Dec. 27.
The plan included an “immediate ceasefire for a specific period to allow humanitarian aid to get to Gaza’s traumatized population and an invitation to Israel and the Palestinians to come to Egypt for talks.
It also urged a reopening of Gaza’s border crossings, lifting the blockade, and renewed a call for Palestinian reconciliation talks under Egyptian mediation.
But the Syrian-based Palestinian groups said on Thursday in their statement they were dismayed by the participation of certain Arab parties in a plan aimed at “strangling the resistance and surrounding our people.
They said they could not understand why “the Egyptian regime does not open the Rafah crossing point, unless this regime is party to an American-Zionist plan.
Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas political leader who lives in exile in Damascus, in a statement on Wednesday called the Israeli assault an “unjust and barbaric war that was “aimed at breaking the will of the Palestinian people.
Israel said it launched its Gaza offensive in a bid to halt rocket and mortar attacks from the densely populated Gaza Strip into southern Israel after a six-month truce with Hamas expired on Dec. 19.
The Independent had reported however, that Israel was the first to break the ceasefire first on Nov. 4 when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on Nov. 17 when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians.
Meanwhile senior Israeli official Amos Gilad was in Cairo on Thursday for crucial talks on the Egyptian proposal.
Gilad, a senior aide to Defence Minister Ehud Barak, was to hold confidential talks with Egypt s intelligence chief and pointman for Israeli affairs Omar Suleiman before heading home, the Israeli embassy said.
Suleiman will detail the plan s technical aspects on securing Egypt s border with the Gaza Strip through which Israel says Palestinian militants including Hamas get weapons, a diplomatic source told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Sealing the border, criss-crossed by hundreds of tunnels, is an Israeli requirement for ending its offensive.
Suleiman negotiated with Gilad the previous six-month truce with Hamas. On his return, he will report his findings to the Israeli security cabinet, the source said.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted as saying on Thursday that he was aiming for a ceasefire within 72 hours after President Hosni Mubarak floated the truce plan on Tuesday.
We re talking about 48 to 72 hours at the most, because I cannot imagine the Israeli killing machine continuing this operation, Aboul Gheit told the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper.
We want to reach at least the first two points of the initiative, a ceasefire for a short period of time, and opening the border crossings, Aboul Gheit told the Arabic-language daily.
The plan also includes a renewed call for Palestinian reconciliation talks under Egyptian mediation.
The Palestinians have been politically and physically divided since June 2007, with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip and the Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in power in the Israeli occupied West Bank.
Abbas is due in Cairo on Friday for talks on Saturday, his ambassador said, with media reports suggesting Olmert may also come to Egypt in the next few days. -Agencies