Egypt presented a ceasefire plan on Monday to end the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza that has left at least 185 people dead. Both sides said they were seriously considering the proposal.
The late-night offer by Egypt marked the first sign of a breakthrough in international efforts to end the conflict.
Hamas’s top leader in Gaza confirmed there was “diplomatic movement,” while Israel’s policy-making Security Cabinet was set to discuss the proposal early Tuesday. Arab foreign ministers discussed the plan Monday night at an emergency meeting in Cairo, and US Secretary of State John Kerry was expected in the region Tuesday.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry announced the three-step plan starting at 9 am local time with a ceasefire 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.
Gaza’s crossings should be opened for people and goods “once the security situation becomes stable,” according to a copy of the proposal obtained by AP.
The United States welcomed the ceasefire plan. White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the US hopes the plan will lead to calm being restored as soon as possible and that escalation won’t benefit Israelis or Palestinians.
Israel launched the offensive on July 8, saying it was a response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-ruled Gaza. The Health Ministry in Gaza has reported the deaths of 185 people, including dozens of civilians. More than 1,000 people have been reported wounded.
There have been no Israelis killed, although several have been wounded by rocket shrapnel, including two sisters, ages 11 and 13, who were seriously hurt on Monday. Ahead of the Egyptian announcement, there appeared to be no slowdown in the fighting, with Hamas for the first time launching an unmanned drone into Israeli airspace that was shot down.
Hamas demands easing of blockade
Israel is demanding guarantees of an extended period of quiet, while Hamas officials say they will not accept “calm for calm”. The group is demanding an easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has ground Gaza’s economy to a standstill and that Israel release dozens of prisoners who were arrested in a recent West Bank crackdown following the abductions of the Israeli youths.
With the death toll mounting, both sides have come under increasing international pressure to halt the fighting.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said there is “no alternative but return to the truce” of November 2012, and added that Egypt contacted all the parties, including the Palestinian leadership, different Palestinian factions, and Israeli authorities in addition to Arab and international parties.
Egypt has refrained until now from involving itself in the conflict, and it remains to be seen how Hamas will interact with the new government in Cairo.
“There is some hope, but you have to keep in mind that Egypt has a lot less leverage than it did two years ago [under the ousted Muslim Brotherhood movement] or even four years ago under [ousted president Hosni] Mubarak” FRANCE 24’s Ashraf Khalil reported from Cairo.
“This current government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood an enemy, and this Muslim Brotherhood is essentially the parent organisation of Hamas.
“So Egypt is not playing from its usual position of strength and credibility.”
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2014-07-14