Hamas rejects Israel ceasefire demands

Hamas today said it would not accept Israeli conditions for a ceasefire and would continue to fight until Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip ends.

Khaled Meshaal, leader of the Palestinian Islamist group, called on leaders at the opening of an emergency meeting on Gaza in Doha to cut all ties with the Jewish state.

"Despite all the destruction in Gaza, I assure you: we will not accept Israel's conditions for a ceasefire," Meshaal told the meeting in Doha, which was attended by the presidents of Syria, Iran and Lebanon. Heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Egypt were absent.

The meeting in Qatar conflicted with another meeting by Arab foreign ministers in Kuwait to discuss the three-week-old Israeli offensive that has highlighted deep splits in the Arab world over Gaza, where the death toll has exceeded 1,100.

Qatar had proposed hosting a special Arab summit on Gaza but met with resistance from regional powers Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who said they preferred to discuss the situation as part of the previously scheduled economic summit in Kuwait on Monday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country has been engaged in indirect peace talks with Israel, said an Arab initiative for peace with Israel was "dead".

He said Arab countries should end all "direct and indirect" ties with the Jewish state in protest at its offensive in Gaza.

"I consider the Arab initiative with Israel "dead", he said.

The 22-member Arab League says Doha has failed to secure the quorum of 15 required for a formal Arab Summit, but Qatar has gone ahead with a broad consultative meeting that has attracted Hamas, the Iranian and Syrian presidents and Turkish officials.

Arab divisions

Adding to the confusion, U.S.-allied Gulf Arab leaders held an emergency meeting on Gaza late on Thursday, in an apparent bid to pre-empt Qatar's diplomatic efforts.

The Gulf Arab leaders promised at their Riyadh meeting that the Arab summit in Kuwait would discuss the Gaza offensive and noted that president-elect Barack Obama may change U.S. policy.

"The Arab situation has been very chaotic and this is regrettable," Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters in Kuwait.

At the morning session, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called for more support for Egyptian efforts to mediate a ceasefire and increased diplomatic pressure on Israel to ensure the implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the violence in Gaza.

The foreign ministers' meeting had been scheduled by Kuwait even before Israel's Gaza offensive, but Qatar felt the severity of the situation required an earlier meeting at leaders' level.

Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, whose country has low-level ties with Israel and ties to Hamas, said the Doha summit would review diplomatic and economic ties to Israel, raising the prospect the Qataris could use their meeting as a platform to announce a suspension of ties with the Jewish state.

Sheikh Hamad also pledged $250 million to rebuild Gaza and said the talks would raise the possibility of suspending an Arab peace initiative, though any move on that front needs a quorum.

The flurry of rival Arab meetings reflects the Arab divide between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and their allies on one side, and Syria, Qatar and their allies on the other. It also risks further undermining the Arab League, already seen by many ordinary Arabs as a toothless body.

Syria and Qatar, which recently patched up once-frosty ties with its Saudi neighbour, are more sympathetic toward Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which won a 2006 election and has ruled Gaza since 2007, after routing fighters from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.

But Egypt, Gaza's only Arab neighbour, has said it will not open the border for normal traffic without the presence of Abbas's forces. It has faced criticism for cooperating in the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory.

With bloody images of Palestinian casualties plastered across Arab television screens for the past 21 days, public demands have grown for Arab leaders to take a stronger stand.

Conservative Arab governments are wary of summits at times of crisis because they are reluctant to pass confrontational resolutions which would meet the expectations of public opinion.

(Writing by Lin Noueihed, Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable