The Palestinian decision-making body led by U.S.-backed President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday endorsed demands by Hamas for halting Gaza hostilities with Israel, a closing of ranks that may help Egyptian-mediated truce efforts.
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At the end of an emergency meeting headed by Abbas in Ramallah Tuesday night, the Palestinian leadership issued a statement saying "We praise the resolute stand of the great Palestinian people and the forces of resistance that are fighting heroically against the occupying army that is committing crimes and slaughtering our compatriots." The statement also called for a general PLO meeting to be held in Cairo, which would include all Palestinian factions.
A senior Palestinian official explained the move: "When the international community and the Arab world don't come up with the goods Abbas and the leadership in Ramallah has no choice but to align themselves with the people and specifically with the people of Gaza."
With Israeli and U.S. encouragement, Egypt has tried to get both sides to hold fire and then negotiate terms for protracted calm in the Palestinian enclave where officials said 624 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in 15 days of fighting.
Hamas, the Gaza Strip's dominant Islamists, and other armed factions had baulked at Cairo's offer, saying they wanted assurances of relief from an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and other concessions. The dispute was further complicated by distrust between Egypt under President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Hamas.
In a move that could effectively turn Abbas into the main interlocutor for a Gaza truce, his umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Wednesday formally supported core conditions set by the Hamas-led fighters.
"The Gaza demands of stopping the aggression and lifting the blockade in all its forms are the demands of the entire Palestinian people and they represent the goal that the Palestinian leadership has dedicated all its power to achieve," senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said in Ramallah, the hub city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Abbas is based.
"We are confident Gaza will not be broken as long as our people are standing beside it to support it through all possible means until the invaders understand that our great people inside the homeland and outside will not leave Gaza alone."
Signaling that Abbas, too, sought a staggered cessation of hostilities, the Palestinian leader's Fatah faction on Tuesday proposed a truce followed by five days of negotiations on terms.
There was no immediate response to the PLO statement from Hamas or Israel, which pressed the Gaza offensive it began on July 8 after a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes.