The only channel of communication between the Egyptian authorities and Hamas, Dr Mousa Abu Marzouk, has been active in shuttle diplomacy over the past few days, nudged by the US administration after the latter’s recognition that an Israeli military victory over the movement has become elusive and highly unlikely. Statements by Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair appear to confirm this view.
According to informed sources in Cairo, Blair has played a key role in convincing the US to move in two directions. First, to put off an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza until the potential truce negotiations are in place. Second, to put pressure on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to act as a mediator in the conflict.
Hence, the importance of Abu Marzouk who, technically, negotiates with Blair via Cairo. Abu Marzouk is an ex-resident of the US and the only Hamas official allowed to stay in the Egyptian capital. He maintains contacts with diverse Palestinian figures, including those opposed to Mahmoud Abbas. He has been involved in arrangements to secure the movement of Palestinian casualties across the Egyptian border from Gaza, having become the only accredited channel for Cairo. Contacts with Abu Marzouk have helped stave off a ground operation in Gaza and pave the way for a new truce.
Blair’s interventions have raised the level of Egypt’s movements, with news media suggesting that a semi-final draft agreement has already been reached. A number of points in the agreement have been put forward, including a return to the 2012 ceasefire provisions, lifting the siege and opening the borders.
The latter has been inserted at the request of Hamas, which wants to see the Rafah crossing open permanently in a way that alleviates the suffering of the people of Gaza. Hamas sources say that contacts have already been made between the government in Cairo and Abu Marzouk to negotiate the terms of the agreement.
On his Facebook page, Abu Marzouk made reference to the potential agreement, writing that “a truce with Israel would serve as a warrior’s rest.”