by Samer al-Atrush
by Samer al-Atrush
CAIRO, Nov 26, 2012 (AFP)
An Israeli delegation was to arrive Monday in Cairo for indirect talks with Hamas on easing the Gaza blockade, the Palestinian faction’s number two said, warning his group may act if there is any delay.
Mussa Abu Marzuk said Hamas did not commit to stop arming itself in truce talks that ended a week-long conflict in and around Gaza with an agreement for Israel to ease its blockade of the coastal territory.
“A team from the other side is coming to Cairo today,” Abu Marzuk, based in Cairo since his movement’s politburo left Damascus, told reporters in the Egyptian capital.
According to the Egyptian-mediated truce that ended the fighting on November 21, both sides would respect a ceasefire and then, 24 hours later, begin talks on easing the blockade.
“In the preliminary agreement, Israel agreed to widen the area (allowed to Palestinian fisherman off Gaza’s coast) from three to six nautical miles, which started yesterday,” said Abu Marzuk.
“That is unacceptable,” he said, adding his movement was pressing for a larger coastal zone of 12 nautical miles. “The question of the sea is being discussed today.”
The Palestinian and Israeli delegations, which never meet directly but negotiate through Egyptian mediators, would also discuss linking Gaza economically to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, he said.
Israel began restricting goods to the enclave when Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier in a cross border raid in 2006 and it imposed a blockade a year later after Hamas violently seized Gaza from its Fatah rivals.
According to the truce, Israel would “no longer restrict the passage of people and goods” through Gaza’s crossings, Abu Marzuk said. “That means the siege is broken.”
Hamas had initially demanded a date be set for Israel to end its blockade, officials from the Islamist movement had told AFP during the truce talks. The final agreement did not mention a timetable.
But if the talks go on without resolution, Hamas might act, Abu Marzuk said.
“If the enemy commits to a ceasefire, we will respect it,” he said. “The occupation, and siege, are acts of aggression. If they procrastinate a lot, then the sky is open, if they indeed do not commit and procrastinate.”
Abu Marzuk repeated his movement’s view that the end of the fighting, which killed 166 Palestinians and six Israelis, was a victory for Islamist militants whom Israel, the US and the EU consider a terrorist group.
Hamas would continue arming itself, he said. In the last round of fighting, Palestinian militants struck Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with rockets for the first time.
Hamas insists the rockets were locally developed, but Israel believes they have smuggled in the weapons through tunnels with neighbouring Egypt and has insisted that the smuggling end.
“Israel is proposing this, no doubt,” Abu Marzuk said. “But at no stage was it part if the understanding for a ceasefire. They proposed it in the media, but not during the talks.”
During the confrontation, the Israeli army said 933 Gaza rockets hit Israel, while another 421 were intercepted in mid-air by the US-funded Iron Dome air anti-missile system.