Egypt launches bid to end assault on Gaza

Smoke billows from a building hit by an Israeli air strike in the town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 14, 2014.

Smoke billows from a building hit by an Israeli air strike in the town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 14, 2014.

Arab League foreign ministers meet in Cairo to discuss the ongoing conflict between the Israeli military and Palestinians in the Gaza strip

Egypt launched on Monday an initiative to end the violence in neighboring Gaza, calling for a temporary truce between the Israeli military and Palestinians to begin early Tuesday.

According to a statement from Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, the three-step plan would commence with a temporary cease-fire to go into effect within 12 hours of “unconditional acceptance” by the two sides.

That would be followed by the opening of Gaza’s border crossings and talks in Cairo between the sides within two days, according to the statement.

A senior Hamas official said the group was open to the plan. Israel had no immediate reaction, but local media quoted officials as saying the government was considering it seriously.

The proposal marked the most serious attempt yet by international mediators to end the conflict that erupted last week and came hours before a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo that discussed the plan.

In a speech broadcast on Al-Jazeera, Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in Gaza, confirmed that there was “diplomatic movement.” He said Hamas was seeking not only an end to the fighting, but also an easing of a blockade that has crippled life in Gaza.

“The problem is not going back to the agreement on calm because we want this aggression to stop,” he said.

“The problem is the reality of Gaza, the siege, the starving, the bombing … The siege must stop and Gaza people need to live in dignity.”

Earlier Monday, Palestinian militants resumed rocket attacks on Tel Aviv after a 24-hour lull in strikes on the Israeli commercial capital, and Israel kept up its air and naval bombardments of the Gaza Strip.

The military said it had shot down a drone from Gaza, the first reported deployment of an unmanned aircraft by Palestinian militants and a possible step up in the sophistication of their arsenal, although it was not clear whether it was armed.

Their rocket attacks have been regularly intercepted but more than half a dozen Israelis have been wounded since the start of the week-old offensive. Gaza health officials say Israeli air strikes have killed 170 Palestinians, most of them civilians.

Also Monday, Egyptian media said U.S. Secretary John Kerry was due in Cairo on Tuesday for talks on the Gaza situation. There was no immediate U.S. confirmation of the report.

The European Union said it was in touch with “all parties in the region” to press for an immediate halt to the hostilities, the worst flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence for almost two years.

The violence was prompted by the murder of three Israeli teenagers and revenge killing of a Palestinian youth. Israeli officials said on Monday three people arrested over the Palestinian’s death had confessed to burning him alive.

 
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