Egypt FM: Hamas should stop rocket firing
Egypt's foreign minister said Thursday that Hamas must stop rocket fire in any truce deal to halt Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip, criticizing the Palestinian movement for giving Israel an excuse to launch the bombardment.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit's words came as Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Egypt's president, part of a tour by the Turkish leader to work out an Egyptian-Turkish initiative to end the clashes. The Turkish leader, speaking in a news conference in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh after meeting with Hosni Mubarak, urged Israel to hold its attacks and on Hamas to stop firing rockets on Israel. According to Erdogan, there must be a cease-fire now before it is too late.
Aboul Gheit said any eventual truce agreement should include a mechanism to oversee "that everything proceeds without one side causing problems with the other." According to the AP, he noted that the mechanism could involve "international forces or Arab forces or just observers."
Aboul Gheit said Israel must immediately stop its offensive, but he insisted Hamas must commit to enforcing a halt to rockets. "We expect the Palestinian side to say that if a cease-fire is announced, we'll stop firing rockets," he said, although he warned that "some loose group can decide to continue firing rockets and make it difficult to have a cease-fire."
He criticized Hamas, saying Egypt had seen "the signals that Israel was determined to strike Hamas in Gaza for the past three months. They practically wrote it in the sky." "Unfortunately, they (Hamas) served Israel the opportunity on a golden platter to hit Gaza," he said.
Aboul Gheit repeated Egypt's argument that it cannot open Rafah unless the Palestinian Authority controls the crossing and international monitors are present. He said Hamas wants Rafah opened permanently because it would represent implicit Egyptian recognition of Hamas' control of Gaza. "Of course this is something we cannot do," Aboul Gheit said, because it would undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and consecrate the split between Gaza and the West Bank.
Aboul Gheit added Egypt had proposed that Arab foreign ministers who gathered in Cairo Wednesday request Hamas allow Palestinian Authority control of Rafah. But Syria rejected the proposal, he said.