June 17, 2008

UK-Based Paper Reports Details of Calm Agreement Between Israel, Hamas

Excerpt from report by London-based newspaper Al-Hayat website on 17 June

[Report by Fathi Sabbah in Gaza: "'Hamas': Calm Agreement in Three Stages Includes Opening Rafah Crossing and Separating Shalit's Case. Stressed Egypt Will Announce Its Coming Into Force Within Days"]

Authoritative Palestinian sources have disclosed to "Al-Hayat" details of the calm agreement reached between Israel and the "Hamas" movement and the armed Palestinian factions following difficult and indirect negotiations led by Minister Umar Sulayman, director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, and under which Israel will lift the blockade off the Gaza Strip. The agreement will be implemented in three stages and includes reopening the Rafah crossing, taking it out of Israel's hands, in addition to separating the crossing issue from the case of releasing captured Israeli soldier Gil'ad Shalit.

Sources from "Hamas" have told "Al-Hayat" that the agreement stipulates that Egypt will announce in the coming days the zero hour for the calm to come into force in the "Gaza Strip first" for six months before it includes the West Bank. They said: The agreement involves three stages. The first will start three days after the announcement of the zero hour and the Israeli occupation forces will open under it the two commercial crossings (Karni) east of Gaza city and "Sofah" northeast of Rafah city south of the Strip. They will allow the entry of food and necessary commodities included in the lists of commodities which the occupation authorities have been allowing to enter the Strip for months. They added that the second stage would start one week later and include lifting the ban on most of the necessary commodities and materials apart from a small number of materials which Israel believes are used for making weapons, explosives, and rockets, in particular metal pipes and some chemicals. They went on to say that the third stage would start also one week later and a meeting would be held to discuss the mechanisms for opening the Rafah border crossing, the only outlet to the outside world for the Palestinians in the Strip. Israel closed it two years ago following the capture of soldier Gil'ad Shalit.

The sources said the essential and most important point in the agreement after lifting the blockade is that Israel would not have any connection with the Rafah border crossing from now on. It was agreed to operate it under a partnership between Egypt, the European monitors, the Palestinian [National] Authority, and "Hamas."

Another Palestinian source with strong ties to the Authority and "Hamas" said the movement achieved a good and reasonable agreement and a "victory" in the Rafah crossing matter. It added that the second "victory" was the movement's success, with Egypt's help, to separate the calm dossier from the Shalit one after Israel backed down on its condition that it would not reopen the crossing before Shalit's release. It noted that this agreement would accelerate the negotiations to release Shalit in return for releasing around 300 Palestinian prisoners who have spent many years in captivity in addition to those given long sentences, children prisoners, women, the sick, the deputies, and the ministers. The source pointed out that Israel agreed to many of the names presented by "Hamas" in a list through Egypt, with the exception of several prisoners, among them Yahya al-Sinwar, one of the founders of "Hamas's" military wing, and Hasan Salamah, the planner of several martyrdom operations who is called by Hamas the "Al-Qassam Brigades' lion" who was sentenced dozens of life sentences and hundreds of years in jail. It said the negotiations of a Shalit deal would start immediately after completing implementation of the calm agreement. "Hamas" sources said consultations would be held with the movement's leaders inside and outside the territories and the delegation would return to Cairo, probably today, to give the final response to the Egyptian side. [Passage omitted on dismissed Prime Minister Haniyah's statement about the "imminent" completion of calm agreement.]

Originally published by Al-Hayat website, London, in Arabic 17 Jun 08.

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