President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday defended Egypt’s role in trying to broker a Gaza truce between Israel and Hamas, which accuses him of proposing a ceasefire favourable to Israel.
Unlike his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi whom he toppled and detained last year, ex-army chief Sisi has sought to isolate the militant Palestinian movement in the neighbouring Gaza Strip.
The Cairo government worked to contain the crisis even before it escalated into a full-blown conflict on July 8 that has killed more than 650 Palestinians and at least 31 Israelis, Sisi said.
“Egypt has sacrificed, for the Palestinian cause and the Palestinians, 100,000 martyrs,” he said in a televised address, referring to casualties in Egypt’s wars with Israel between 1948 and 1973, before Cairo signed a 1979 peace treaty.
“So it is difficult for anyone to engage in one-upmanship, not just regarding (our role) with the Palestinian brothers but also the Arab region,” he said in a speech to mark the 1952 military overthrow of the monarchy in Egypt.
Since Morsi’s overthrow in July 2013, Egypt has been at odds with Turkey and Qatar, both of which back his Muslim Brotherhood and have been critical of Sisi’s stand on the Gaza conflict.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Sisi a “tyrant” who could not be trusted to mediate a truce, while Hamas demands a role for Ankara and Doha, which hosts its political leadership, in any truce negotiations.
Morsi mediated a truce to end an eight-day conflict with Israel in 2012 that Hamas was able to represent as a “victory”.
Sisi said his truce proposal would give Hamas its key demand of an end to the eight-year blockade of Gaza once calm is restored.
“What we want is that simple citizens in the Gaza Strip not be subjected to what they are going through now,” he said of the proposal, which demands a ceasefire before talks.
Hamas, however, insists on a comprehensive agreement before it agrees to a ceasefire.
It also demands that Egypt open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, the only passage to the coastal enclave not controlled by Israel.
Hamas argues that Egypt’s proposal, which is backed by the United States, United Nations and Arab League, would allow Israel to dictate if and when to ease its blockade on Gaza.