Hamas chief Meshaal in Cairo for tentative Gaza talks

AFP , Saturday 17 Nov 2012

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal holds talks in Cairo over the violence in Gaza with Egypt's intelligence chief and Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal was in Cairo on Saturday to confer on ending the Gaza conflict but the Islamist group is reluctant to agree a ceasefire without guarantees Israel will honour it, a senior Hamas official said.

Meshaal was scheduled to meet with Egypt's intelligence chief as well as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, both visiting Cairo, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Hamas, now its fourth day of conflict with Israel around the Gaza Strip, doubts that any country could guarantee terms for a ceasefire, he said.

"Through Egyptian mediation, we reached an understanding for a truce and it was broken in about 48 hours," he said of an Israeli air strike on Wednesday that killed the Hamas military chief, after rockets were fired from Gaza.

"Egypt now cannot say: 'I guarantee a truce,'" he said, adding it would require a stronger effort by the "international community."

Hamas's last sustained conflict with Israel in December 2008-January 2009 ended with an Egyptian mediated truce that was meant to guarantee a loosening of Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Palestinian medics said 40 Gazans have been killed and more than 350 wounded since Israel launched an air campaign on the enclave on Wednesday. Three Israelis were killed by a Hamas rocket.

Since Israel's last major offensive on Gaza, the Arab Spring uprisings that brought an Islamist to power in Cairo have put more pressure on Israel to halt its campaign before it expands into a ground operation.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood movement is closely aligned with Hamas, recalled his ambassador from Israel and sent his prime minister to Gaza in a show of solidarity.

But he is unlikely to substantially change Egypt's policy on its single border crossing with the territory, which Hamas wants to turn into a trade gateway.

Egyptian officials fear any such move would make them responsible for Gaza's impoverished 1.6 million people, a burden they believe Israel should bear.

And it would alienate Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose Fatah movement Hamas ousted from the territory in deadly fighting in 2007.

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