Hamas-Gaza bows to Damascus leaders’ veto against Egyptian ceasefire terms
The Gaza Hamas faction failed Monday, Jan. 12, to persuade its Damascus leaders to accept the Egyptian ceasefire terms and was ordered to carry on fighting in the Gaza Strip. This setback followed 48 hours of optimism in Jerusalem and Cairo where it had been hoped that, with their backs to the wall, the Palestinian extremists would submit to the tough Egyptian-Israeli ultimatum. It is now up to the Israeli defense cabinet to decide whether Israeli forces stand still on their present battle lines or go forward to the crunch, which means entering Gaza City proper and capturing the Philadelphi smuggling corridor.
debkafile‘s intelligence sources report that Egypt has signaled discreetly that it is not averse to Israel broadening its operation in Gaza.
Earlier Monday, Jan. 12, debkafile reported:
Israel and Egypt are playing hard ball with the Hama delegation who arrived in Cairo Saturday to seek a ceasefire in Gaza hostilities. This is reported by debkafile‘s military sources Monday, Jan. 12, Day 17 of the Gaza offensive.
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said Monday: We are closer than ever before to ending the rocket fire and getting Hamas’ arms traffic under control.
As Israel tightened its military pressure with added reservists units, Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman rejected Hamas negotiators’ appeal for compromises and told them the deal on offer was take-it-or-leave-it: Accept or face an all-out Israeli assault on all fronts.
debkafile‘s analysts note that this was the first time the Egyptian government has used Israeli military gains as currency to further its national interests, namely, breaking the back of an Islamist movement deemed a destabilizing element for the Mubarak regime.
Suleiman informed the Palestinian delegation that Israel was holding out for Hamas to collect all its rocket and missile stocks and weapons in the hands of other Palestinian terrorist groups and turn them over to a third party. This party would also take charge of security in the Philadelphi Corridor.
Hamas would be given a month to implement the handover, but no longer.
Israel was also adamant about retaining its army on the battle lines held in the Gaza Strip when the ceasefire goes into effect until a new military mechanism is put in place on the Philadelphi Corridor and has proved capable of effectively stemming the arms traffic entering through tunnels from outside sources.
Some of the smuggling is still going on – but at a much reduced pace since the Israeli aerial bombardments began 17 days ago. The number of firings has dropped from 60 to 23.
The Hamas negotiators also ran into a blank Egyptian wall when they proposed setting a six-month time cap on the proposed ceasefire and reopening the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Sinai as a face-saving gesture to mark the onset of a truce. Suleiman said firmly that Rafah would reopen only when all six Gaza crossings into Israel were reactivated by Palestinian Authority personnel and European military monitors.
He said that Cairo was consulting with Jerusalem on the possible transfer of the two halves of Rafah – the Gazan and the Egyptian – to the Palestinian Authority and its chairman, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Sunday, an Egyptian military plane ferried the Hamas-Gaza delegation to Damascus to seek the endorsement of hardline Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal for the truce terms dictated by Egypt and Israel. Gen. Suleiman directed them to pass this message on to Meshaal: Give up your illusions; Hamas’ only remaining option now is to bow to the Middle East Quartet’s primary condition: Recognize Israel.
Israel’s negotiator Amos Gilead put off his mission to Cairo from Monday to await the return of the Hamas-Gaza delegates from Damascus. All parties are clear that a negative Hamas response will signal the onset of the next stage of Israel’s Gaza offensive.