CAIRO: Each side is blaming the other for breaking the temporary truce after peace talks in Cairo between Palestine and Israel failed Tuesday, with Hamas rockets and Israeli strikes continuing into Wednesday morning with casualties and civilians fleeing their homes on the Palestinian side.
Palestinian chief negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said in a press conference in Cairo early Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a “decided intention” to derail the talks.
“The Palestinian side showed great flexibility in the talks and handed the Egyptians a document that responds to requirements leading to an understanding,” Ahmed said.
A Palestinian Authority official told Haaretz that Israel is “responsible for the failure” of the talks by refusing to engage in a political process with the Palestinians and especially with Hamas. He blamed this on Netanyahu’s “political considerations.”
Israel, however, has blamed Hamas for breaking the ceasefire. “Approx. 50 rockets launched today at #Israel by #Hamas in a calculated decision to end the ceasefire. #IDF responding to the aggression,” wrote Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Peter Lerner on his official Twitter account Tuesday night.
Israel, which regards Hamas as a terrorist organization, did not meet Hamas officials face-to-face in Cairo, where the talks are being held. Rather, Egyptian mediators shuttled between the parties in separate rooms, according to Reuters.
Tareq Fahmy, head of the Israeli Studies Unit at the National Center for Middle East Studies, told Al-Arabiya al-Hadath channel Tuesday evening that while Israel foiled the talks, Hamas was also not willing for an Egyptian-brokered truce to succeed.
“The Israeli delegation is multifarious at setting conditions on the simplest Palestinian demands and rights to circumvent [the Palestinian demands] and impose unacceptable agreements on the Palestinian delegation,” Fahmy said.
“The negotiations witnessed a state of conflict and the two parties raised the bar of their demands, going beyond crossings and a sea port. It became a matter of incapacitating demands; the Israeli delegation demanded the disbarment of the resistance organizations, a condition excluded since the first day of negotiation. In return, the Palestinian Authority and its delegation raised the idea of a complete end to the Gaza Strip blockade,” Fahmy added.
Israel is witnessing military, strategic, media and popular escalation in favor of continuing the war, which does not serve any of the negotiation mechanisms.
In case of ongoing failure of negotiations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will file a request to the Secretary General of the United Nations to put the occupied territories under international protection, although the U.S. would certainly intervene to obstruct such a path.
Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas official and member of the Palestinian delegation in the talks, accused Israel of “purposely undermining the talks” by making new demands that had not arisen at the start of negotiations, Haaretz reported.
Israel withdrew its negotiators from Cairo at around 4 p.m. Tuesday, after an exchange of hostilities between Israel and Gaza had already taken place.
Palestinian delegate Qais Abdel-Kareem told AP that discussions had resumed Tuesday on key issues, including Israel’s blockade of Gaza, its demands for Hamas’ disarmament and Palestinian demands for a Gaza port and airport. These issues are highly sensitive and disputed between the two sides, and Israel seemed to want to delay the issue of a port and airport to a later stage.
Jamal Shoback, Palestinian ambassador in Cairo, said Israel proposed arrangements that are about “not (fully) removing the blockade but easing it,” AP reported.
A top Israeli official told Haaretz the gaps between the negotiating sides remained significant, and that it was clear by Monday afternoon that the talks and the truce would collapse. The two delegations, however, were urged to continue talks Tuesday by Egyptian diplomats.
“Egypt has exerted great efforts to reach a truce in the Gaza Strip despite international and regional parties that try hard to thwart the Egyptian initiative to stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza,” Fahmy said in his TV interview.
Haaretz quoted Rishaq as saying that the Palestinian delegation did not “want an extension [of talks] today (Tuesday), but in the end we accepted the Egyptian request so they would not blame us of failure.”
A previous cease-fire initiated by the U.S. and the UN in the conflict collapsed within hours.
Following renewed Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, which have thus far killed a two-year-old and a woman in the same house, Palestinians fled their homes in Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip, Beit Hanoun to the north, and from the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, according to Reuters.
More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed and more than 10,000 injured due to Israel’s five-week “Protective Edge” offensive, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Three Israeli civilians and 67 soldiers were killed by Hamas rocket fire during the same period.