Today's Extension Is the Last One, Says Hamas Official

Izzat al-Rishq accuses Israel of bringing up new demands that undermine cease-fire negotiations in Cairo.

Jack Khoury
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Palestinians drive past ruins of a house in Gaza, August 18, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Jack Khoury

A senior Hamas official and member of the Palestinian government told a Hamas website that Tuesday's negotiation extension is that last one.

"We will utilize every second and opportunity to make negotiations succeed, and a large part of the delegation members didn't want an extension today, but in the end we accepted the Egyptian request so they would not blame us of failure," Izzat Al-Rishq of Hamas told Al-Risala on Tuesday morning.

Al-Rishq accused Israel of purposely undermining the talks by making new demands that had not arisen at the start of negotiations.

Earlier, Azzam al-Ahmad, the chief Palestinian negotiator representing Fatah, said Monday night that the delegation would use every minute of the extra 24 hours to reach a deal. He said it was too early to speak of progress on any of the issues raised, and any reports of progress on a draft agreement are inaccurate.

"There has been no progress so far and there are anonymous sources trying to put stumbling blocks before the Egyptian initiative," he said. "Therefore, we agreed to extend the talks by 24 hours, and we should reach a situation tonight of either agreement or no agreement."

According to reports in Cairo, another round of talks began Tuesday morning involving the two sides and the Egyptian mediator, and an announcement regarding results of the talks would only be released toward Tuesday evening or Tuesday night.

A senior Islamic Jihad member who is also part of the Palestinian delegation, Khaled Al-Batash, said the Cairo talks could collapse at any moment because Israel is trying to torpedo them and because of damage to the faith between the Palestinians and Egyptians caused by Israel's refusal to make progress in the talks by acquiescing to Palestinian demands.

Palestinian opinion is strengthening that Netanyahu is not interested in a long-term deal but rather in a list of specific understandings, as were reached in 2012 and in previous operations. Thus, they say they believe that Israel will not take any significant step regarding the Palestinians that would be considered a diplomatic achievement for Hamas.

Azzam al-Ahmad, the chief Palestinian negotiator in Egypt, looking at notes during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership, in Ramallah, August 16, 2014.Credit: AFP