Hamas officials on Tuesday said that a calm deal with Israel may go into effect later this week. The Egypt-brokered deal is aimed at ending Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel and Israeli raids. "We are close to declaring an agreement on the calm, barring unforeseen developments," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
Another Hamas official said the first phase of the deal could start as early as Thursday, with a three-day cessation of hostilities, including Israel opening the Gaza Strip border. The second phase would focus on Hamas returning a captured Israeli soldier it has held for two years, the official said. In exchange, Israel would reopen the Rafah crossing.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' envoy, Hikmat Zeid, arrived in Gaza on Tuesday for reconciliatory talks with Hamas. Ziad's three-member delegation, however, will not meet with Hamas officials at this stage, but will be talking with Fatah leaders in the Hamas-run territory. "We will meet with any active power in this country and with any party that wants to meet with us to discuss any issue," Zeid told reporters in Gaza City, according to AFP. The delegation intends "to clarify the initiative of president Abu Mazen (Abbas) to restore Palestinian unity," said Zeid.