Channel NewsAsia

Hamas demands changes to Egypt Gaza plan

Hamas demanded changes on Wednesday to an Egyptian proposal to end the deadly conflict with Israel in and around Gaza, a Palestinian official said.

CAIRO: Hamas demanded changes on Wednesday to an Egyptian proposal to end the deadly conflict with Israel in and around Gaza, a Palestinian official said.

Hamas' demand came as the Palestinian death toll from Israel's punishing air campaign, now in its ninth day, rose to 220 Palestinians dead after the Islamist movement snubbed the truce plan on Tuesday even though it was briefly respected by Israel.

Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq met Egyptian officials in Cairo and set out the changes being sought, said Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior figure in Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement.

"Hamas has rejected the proposal in its current form and demanded additions, like applying the 2012 agreement concerning border crossings with Israel, and demanded right for fishing up to 12 miles into the sea," Ahmad told reporters in Cairo.

Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told AFP in Gaza City that the Egyptian plan was rejected "in its current form" and that Hamas had notified Egypt of the changes it was seeking.

"The initiative should include clear wording on fully lifting the blockade on Gaza, including opening all the crossings and releasing the rearrested prisoners from the (Gilad) Shalit deal in the West Bank," Hamad said.

He was referring to a 2011 deal under which Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants for more than five years, was freed in exchange for scores of Palestinian prisoners.

Earlier this week, Egypt proposed a ceasefire to start at 0600 GMT Tuesday and be followed by talks on easing the flow of goods into Gaza.

Israel initially accepted the Egyptian initiative, but later intensified its air strikes aimed at stamping out rocket fire by Gaza militants after Hamas rejected the plan.

Another Palestinian official said that Hamas and other factions were objecting to the term "hostilities" in the Egyptian initiative, complaining that "what they are doing is self-defence and resisting the occupation, but what the occupation is doing is aggression".

He said he hoped there would be "meetings between Egypt and the factions as soon as possible to adjust the wording of the initiative and get to a ceasefire".

The Palestinian president flew into Cairo on Wednesday to join the diplomatic efforts for an end to the violence.

He held talks with Abu Marzuq and was due to meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi later, Ahmad said.

On Thursday, he is due to meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Middle East peace Quartet envoy Tony Blair held talks on Wednesday with Sisi and Shoukri, on his second visit to Cairo in a week to discuss the Gaza conflict.

Blair said Egypt's initiative was designed "to allow all the issues that are at the heart of this problem .. to be dealt with in a thorough and proper way."

"There are demands by Hamas in respect of Gaza and there are demands by Israel in respect of security," he said.

"But the purpose of this initiative is to allow people to come and discuss those issues, but in the meantime for the violence to stop and for the lives of the innocent to be saved," Blair said at a joint news conference with Shoukri.

Shoukri said Egypt's proposal aimed at "stopping military actions in order to address the situation in Gaza in the medium and long terms, and to give an opportunity to resume the peace process."

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia