Surprising Progress in Ceasefire Negotiations

Reports are emerging from Palestinian sources that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has managed to persuade the Palestinian Authority’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, to accept the ceasefire understandings reached between Hamas and Israel in order to give the people of Gaza some ‘breathing space.’

Mahmoud Abbas and Abdel Fattah al-SisiMahmoud Abbas and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Photo: AFP)

Apparently, the ceasefire understandings involve two phases, the first of which will take two to three weeks, and the second of which will take six months.

There were several reports at the weekend on the talks mediated by Egypt, in which Israel and Hamas have agreed on the preliminary conditions for a ceasefire.

That news came on what was welcomed as one of the calmest Fridays since the “Great March of Return” protests began on 30th March this year. Those protests have repeatedly seen violent clashes between Gazans and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

A Lebanese newspaper, Al Akhbar, which is said to be affiliated to Hamas, published a draft of the ceasefire agreement on Saturday. It includes ten provisions that seem to be designed to be met in sequence. They include:

(1) Hamas restraining the riots along the Gaza border fence, punishing protesters violating its orders.

(2) Cessation of Monday’s weekly demonstrations — including the flotillas embarking from Gaza towards the Strip’s naval border with Israel.

(3) Continuation of the “March of Return” campaign in a non-violent manner until the end of the year.

(4) Egypt working to lift 70 percent of the siege imposed on Gaza until the complete termination of the riots.

On Sunday senior Palestinians said that Fatah officials had told Egyptian negotiators they approved of Egypt’s role in reaching an agreement between Israel and Hamas.

That statement follows the Egyptian president’s push for the Palestinian Authority to accept the basis for reconciliation with Hamas during a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday.

However, it was also noted that Fatah officials did not agree to support a full ceasefire. They say that can only be achieved once Fatah and Hamas have agreed on reconciliation.