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13 Jan, 2009 15:04

Hamas leadership divided over cease fire

Hamas leadership divided over cease fire

The battered Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip is seeking an immediate cease fire with Israel, but the organisation’s political leader in Damascus, Khaled Mashal, has thus far refused to make the necessary concession.

The Arab affairs analyst on Channel Two, Ehud Ya’ari, said the dispute amounts to a virtual split between the two Hamas centers of power. Sharp differences emerged at a meeting yesterday in Cairo between two Hamas representatives from Gaza and a delegation from Mashal in Damascus. They had come to hear an Egyptian ceasefire proposal outlined by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. The Egyptian said the agreement included the creation of a mechanism to prevent further smuggling of rockets and other armaments to the Gaza Strip in tunnels from Egypt and a demand that Hamas hold political talks with Palestinian Authority President Mamoud Abbas, which they have been refusing to do.

“The Gazans not only accepted it,” said Ya’ari, of the cease fire proposal, “they demanded it.” The delegation from Damascus, however, reiterated Mashal’s rejection of the conditions set down in the Egyptian plan.

The Gazans traveled from Cairo to Damascus immediately after Monday’s meeting to present their case to Mashal and were to return to Cairo today (Monday) with his reply. Suleiman was to meet afterwards with a senior Israeli negotiator, Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, to pass Mashal’s reply on to him.

In a speech on Saturday night, Mashal termed the Israeli attack “a holocaust” and said it had put an end to any chance of compromise. He said there would be no end to rocket attacks until Israel pulled out of Gaza.

“The Gazans will tell Mashal to knockoff his rhetoric and agree to an immediate ceasefire,” said Ya’ari, whose sources in Israel and the Arab world have made him one of Israel’s most credible commentators.

A similar report was made by state television Channel One’s Arab affairs reporter, Oded Granot.

The head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, said earlier in the day that Hamas’ resilience in Gaza was beginning to give way after the shock of the fierce Israeli attack and the lack of support for Gaza from the rest of the world, including Arab leaders. He said, however, that Hamas was still capable of putting up a fight and would not “raise a white flag”.

Commentator Ya’ari, however, said that Hamas in Gaza was now in fact eager to raise a white flag as quickly as possible so as to put a stop to the Israeli attack. Not a physical flag but a virtual one, by agreeing to accept the Egyptian offer without conditions, if necessary. The Gaza delegates did, however, ask Egypt if it would grant it two requests so that Hamas could say it had won concessions. One request was for Egypt to temporarily open its crossing point to Gaza at Rafah until a permanent arrangement could be arrived at. Egypt is insisting that the crossing be manned not by Hamas but by the Palestinian Authority. The second request, said Ya’ari, was that the ceasefire agreement be limited to six months. The Egyptian interlocutor replied that he would discuss the requests with Gen. Gilad, the Israeli representative, which was perhaps the ultimate put-down for the Hamas delegation.

Abraham Rabinovich for RT