CAIRO, July 17 (Reuters) - Egypt’s foreign minister accused Qatar, Turkey and Hamas on Thursday of conspiring to undermine Cairo’s efforts to bring about a ceasefire between the Palestinian militant group and Israel in Gaza, Egypt’s state news agency reported.
Egypt sees Hamas as a threat because it is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the army removed from power last year, straining ties with the Gulf Arab state of Qatar and with Turkey, both countries that backed Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri made the accusation against Turkey, Qatar and Hamas in a briefing with local newspaper editors, the state news agency MENA reported.
“Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian initiative, at least 40 Palestinian souls would have been saved,” MENA quoted Shukri as saying.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday instructed the military to begin a ground offensive in Gaza, an official statement from his office said. Reuters witnesses and Gaza residents reported heavy artillery and naval shelling and helicopter fire along the Gaza border.
Egypt had proposed a permanent ceasefire plan on Tuesday, which Israel accepted. But Hamas, saying its terms had been ignored, rejected it.
Hamas wants Israel and Egypt to lift border restrictions that have deepened economic hardship among Gaza’s 1.8 million populace and caused a cash crunch in the movement, which has been unable to pay its employees for months.
Egypt accuses Hamas of supporting militant groups in the Sinai seeking to topple the Cairo government, an allegation it denies. (Reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Howard Goller)