Avi Issacharoff, Yoav Stern
January 13, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas sources have said that the Palestinian militant organization would agree to the deployment of Turkish troops along Gaza's border with Egypt, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported Tuesday.

"We trust Turkey and its role as an Islamic country," the Hamas officials said. They were referring to a proposal recently submitted to Hamas' Damascus-based political chief Khaled Meshal by Turkish officials.

But a senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq told Al Jazeera television any cease-fire proposal must address the group's demands for an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a complete opening of border crossings.

"This initiative, if it is to be accepted, will be on the basis set by the movement from the beginning," he said.

"I believe this track will be the launch point for the acceptance of any initiative, Egyptian or otherwise" by Hamas, he added.

A Hamas delegation is in Cairo to relay the group's position to Egyptian intelligence officials.

Hamas envoys resumed talks in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence officials on an Egyptian truce proposal for the embattled Gaza Strip, according to officials in Cairo.

The Egyptian initiative calls for a temporary truce, followed by a long ceasefire and the opening of border crossings with the presence of the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces Hamas drove out of Gaza in 2007.

The third phase of the initiative deals with efforts to reconcile Hamas and Abbas's Fatah group.

The talks follow diplomatic efforts that have made little concrete progress in reconciling key differences between Israel and Hamas.

Al-Arabia television reported that Hamas has asked for the exact dates of the proposed Israel Defense Forces withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the reopening of the border crossings.

Egypt: Hamas using Gaza war for political gain

Egyptian officials said Tuesday they agree with Israeli estimates that there is a rift growing between Hamas' Gaza leadership and its leadership abroad.

Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram on Tuesday reported that while Hamas' leadership in Gaza supports the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, Hamas' leadership in Syria is being pressured by Syria and Iran to reject or sabotage the Egyptian proposal.

Egyptian officials also told Al-Ahram that Hamas is trying to use the war in Gaza for political gain.

Al-Ahram reported that Israel has officially apologized to Egypt for the four Egyptian citizens who were wounded by shrapnel during an Israeli air strike on Gaza targets near the border with Egypt.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, meanwhile, left for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday for talks with his ally, King Abdullah on the conflict which has pitched Arabs in a new controversy.

Egyptian officials said Mubarak will brief Abdullah on the Egyptian efforts to convince Hamas to accept an immediate cease-fire with Israel.

Mubarak's previously unannounced departure followed reports in Egyptian
state-owned papers about difficulties in the ongoing talks with Hamas.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said Egypt intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was accompanying Mubarak on his Saudi trip. They said Suleiman left the talks with Hamas officials to be handled by his aides.

There is no indication what transpired in the negotiations prior to Suleiman's departure. A three-member Hamas delegation from the group's exiled leadership in Syria had returned to Cairo from Damascus late Monday to resume the talks and several Hamas members from Gaza were already in the Egyptian capital.

The group has said it is sticking to its demands for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces and said it will only observe a cease-fire afterward.

The talks come as Israeli ground troops pushed deeper into Gaza, battling Palestinian militants in the streets of a densely populated Gaza City neighborhood early Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would end the military operations only when Hamas stops rocketing Israel and halts weapons smuggling across the porous border.

Hamas downplays rift between group leaders in Syria and Gaza

Meanwhile, a Hamas official in Syria downplayed rumors of a rift between
members in Gaza and the exiled leadership in Damascus.

Mohammad Nazal of the Hamas political bureau, told The Associated Press that such reports were meant to cause confusion over where Hamas stands and were part of psychological warfare by Israel.

Representing Hamas in talks in Egypt were Salah Bardaweel and Jamal Abu Hashem from Gaza, and Mohammed Nasr from the Damascus-based Political Bureau of the group, Nazal said.


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