Palestinian factions' weapons are the major source of disagreement in ongoing talks in Cairo to find a ceasefire in Gaza, according to Egyptian and Palestinian sources speaking on condition of anonymity.
Israel has called for disarming Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza in exchange for lifting the siege on the strip, the sources told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, member of the Palestinian delegation and deputy of Hamas' political bureau, tweeted late Thursday morning on the issue, questioning the ability of Washington to propel the current negotiating process.
US Secretary of State John Kerry had said on Monday that international efforts to agree a truce between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza must lead to the disarmament of Hamas.
Kerry told reporters he was continuing to work "toward establishing an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire." But he added: "We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups."
"Weapons of the Palestinian resistance are the sole guarantee to any reached deal and the United States cannot be the guarantor; the Gaza siege was [the US's] decision and [the US's] weapons caused the destruction," Abu Marzouk claimed.
Ezzat Al-Rasheq, a leading Hamas figure, had refused on Wednesday to ‘even consider’ the Israeli demand of disarming the Palestinian factions in Gaza.
"As a delegation, we don't accept even listening to any suggestions in such aspect, and whoever [Israel] thinks he won the battle is wrong; the Palestinian people are the victors," AFP quoted Al-Rasheq as saying.
The US State Department said that a special envoy to the negotiations, Frank Lowenstein, has arrived in Cairo on Thursday.
Earlier this week the top US negotiator William Burns had decided to cancel a trip to Cairo for the talks. Burns was expected to arrive late Sunday to join a visiting US team that is helping Egyptian officials reach a truce between Israel and Palestinian factions.
On Monday, the Palestinian delegation officially presented its demands for a permanent ceasefire including an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, halting airstrikes, lifting the Israeli blockade on the coastal strip and releasing Palestinian prisoners.
On Rafah crossing and aid
According to the same sources, Egypt excluded Israel from talks over the Rafah crossing - located on the Egypt-Gaza border - describing it as an Egyptian-Palestinian matter that Israel is not involved in.
Hamas expressed readiness to hand in the management of the crossing to the newly-formed Palestinian unity government, the sources said, adding that Egypt emphasised the "immediate opening" of the crossing once this step takes place.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called for EU "inspectors" to monitor Gaza's borders amid efforts to extend a ceasefire, according to an interview published in a German newspaper on Thursday, AFP reported. The EU implemented its EUBAM operation (EU Border Assistance Mission) in 2005 at the Rafah crossing point between Gaza and Egypt.
The sources revealed Israel's acceptance concerning the entrance of all means of humanitarian support "without any delay and from all crossings". Tel Aviv also agreed on releasing the Palestinian prisoners provided that mechanisms of implementation will be discussed later, added the sources.
Israel's delegation left Cairo on Thursday in order to meet with the government of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They will return later with official responses over the issues tackled during the talks, the sources concluded.
The Israeli war on Gaza has led to the death of 1,875 Palestinians since it began on 8 July. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians have been killed in clashes and shelling in and around the enclave.