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Egypt blames Hamas for continuing bloodshed in Gaza

By Missing Peace
israel-has-launched-a-ground-invasion-of-gaza-1405636784IDF Merkava tank enters Gaza at the start of ground invasion

By Yossi Lempkowicz  (EIPA)

“If Hamas had accepted the Egyptian proposal, it could save the lives of at least 40 Palestinians,” said Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

“The parties that oppose the Egyptian cease-fire initiative bear responsibility for the Palestinian blood being shed,’ he declared in a briefing with local newspaper editors.

Indirect talks took place in a Cairo hotel as Egyptian mediators attempted to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. But Israel accepted the ceasefire while intransigent Hamas rejected it. The Israeli delegation returned from Cairo Thursday morning, where they tried unsuccessfully to reach the ceasefire.

With no ceasefire in place and rockets continuing to be fired from Gaza, Israel’s Security Cabinet Thursday evening ordered the beginning of a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip as Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israel, having also attempted to use tunnels to infiltrate and attack Israel.

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a limited ground operation, saying that the aim is “to damage the underground terror tunnels constructed in Gaza leading into Israeli territory.” Thursday morning, Israeli forces foiled an attempt by 13 Hamas terrorists to tunnel into Israel near kibbutz Sufa and launch an attack. The statement added that the objective of Operation Protective Edge remains to “restore quiet and safety to Israelis for a long time to come, while significantly harming the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.” Rocket attacks also continued yesterday with more than 50 rockets launched at southern and central Israel following the end of a five hour humanitarian ceasefire at 3pm and the ground operation commencing.

Israel Army Radio reported that Islamic Jihad was willing to accept an Egyptian initiative but that Hamas remains adamantly opposed to a ceasefire.

It is interesting to see that the Egyptian minister not only was frustrated by Hamas attitude but also accused Qatar and Turkey of conspiring to undermine Cairo’s efforts to bring about a truce between the Islamist group and Israel in Gaza.

Egypt sees Hamas as a threat because it is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the army removed from power last year, straining ties with the Gulf Arab state of Qatar and with Turkey, both countries that backed Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt also accuses Hamas of supporting al-Qaeda linked radical groups in the Sinai seeking to topple the Cairo government.

Several media reports suggest that Hamas’s core demand focuses on control of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which Egypt has insisted remain largely closed following Hamas’s smuggling of weapons into the Sinai Peninsula.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly suggested that PA forces could man the Rafah crossing to help resolve the impasse. Abbas and Egypt’s President al-Sisi released a joint statement yesterday calling for an “immediate ceasefire to spare the blood of the Palestinian people.”

According to Avi Issacharoff, a specialist of Arab affairs for Times of Israel, Hamas’s demands in the Cairo talks make it increasingly clear why the organization went to war. “Hamas, it seems, initiated an escalation against Israel when its target was really Egypt. Hamas may have aimed its missiles at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but Israel was ultimately a hostage in Hamas’s effort to get closer to Cairo.”

“Hamas wants this in order to bring an end to the blockade on Gaza, open the Rafah Border Crossing, and in many ways to ensure its survival,” he writes.

On Tuesday morning, many people in Israel raised an eyebrow at Hamas’s rejection of the Egyptian ceasefire. “But if we examine the crisis from the prism of Egypt-Hamas relations, we can see things differently,”says Issacharoff.