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Hamas back in Egypt for Gaza ceasefire talks

A Hamas delegation was in Cairo on Saturday to seek "clarifications" on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's plan to end the war in Gaza as it entered its third week.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2009 13:50 IST

A Hamas delegation was in Cairo on Saturday to seek "clarifications" on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's plan to end the war in Gaza as it entered its third week, a security official told AFP.

A delegation from the Islamist faction led by senior members Ayman Taha and Jamal Abu Hashem entered Egypt from the Gaza Strip late on Friday and was to be joined by another team from Hamas's Syria-based political leadership.

The Hamas representatives were to meet Omar Suleiman, pointman for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, and make "remarks" on the Egyptian peace plan floated on Tuesday, the state news agency MENA reported.

Cairo's plan calls for an immediate ceasefire for a specified period, opening Gaza's border crossings, preventing arms smuggling into the territory and an invitation to Palestinian factions to reconciliation talks.

Mussa Abu Marzuk, the Damascus-based deputy head of the Hamas politburo, said on Friday his movement wanted "clarifications" on the plan and would reject any ceasefire that did not lift the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"In every stage there are many questions and there is a need for clarifications," Abu Marzuk told AFP.

A Hamas delegation from Syria met with Suleiman on Tuesday, but Saturday's meeting will be the first attended by Gaza representatives since Israel began its offensive on December 27.

"There will be no acceptance of any (proposal) that does not call for an end to the blockade and the opening of the border crossings," Abu Marzuk said.

He added that the delegation will also discuss the "validity" of a 2005 deal under which the Rafah crossing can only be opened to normal traffic if European Union observers and Palestinian Authority forces are at the border.

Egypt cites the agreement as the reason it has refused to permanently open the crossing, the only one with Gaza which bypasses Israel.

The EU suspended its mission at the crossing after Hamas seized control of Gaza in a week of deadly fighting with the secular Fatah movement in June 2007.

Israel imposed its blockade after the Hamas takeover. It has said that it will not accept a ceasefire that allows Hamas to rearm with weapons smuggled in through tunnels linking Gaza and Egypt.