Cairo tries to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to be followed by a truce, the Egyptian foreign minister says.
Egypt urges Gaza ceasefire
CAIRO // Egypt is trying to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to be followed by a truce, the foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said following talks with the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Mr Abbas was in Cairo to discuss Egyptian and Arab League efforts to end the violence in Gaza.
Abul Gheit said a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers set to be held in Cairo on Wednesday should agree on a plan to deal with the crisis that would include seeking a ceasefire and trying to renew a Hamas-Israel truce. The ministers "must decide how to reach a ceasefire between the two parties as a prelude to an agreement on the truce which will lead to an opening of crossing points between Israel and Gaza".
Israel, Hamas and the United Nations Security Council will be informed of the outcome of Wednesday's meeting, he said. Egypt brokered a six-month truce between Hamas and Israel which expired last week, heralding a resurgence of tit-for-tat violence that led to Israel's onslaught on the territory. Abul Gheit said Egypt was making "a big effort" to contain the situation in Gaza. "The essential now is to examine ways to stop the aggression and end military operations.
"We have again summoned the Israeli ambassador to tell him that we reject the continuation of military operations and reject a ground invasion by Israeli forces." The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, has vowed to expand the mammoth bombing campaign, pledging that "if it's necessary to deploy ground forces to defend our citizens, we will do so," his spokesman quoted him as saying. Mr Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority and controls the Israeli-occupied West Bank while his rivals Hamas control the Gaza Strip, appealed for Palestinian unity.
"As the Palestinian Authority, we are responsible for all Palestinians. We shouldn't now be talking about divisions between the Palestinian people, the essential is to reach an end to bloodshed and agree a truce." "We could have avoided these massacres," if the Egyptian-mediated truce had been renewed, he said. "We spoke on the phone to Hamas leaders in Gaza (before the Israeli strikes) and we asked them not to end the truce in order to avoid what has happened."
Mr Abbas backed Egypt's efforts to broker a new truce, recalling that Arab foreign ministers decided in November that Egypt was the only Arab nation charged with continuing efforts to achieve Palestinian dialogue. Mr Abbas also responded to a defiant statement by the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, that "we will not cave in even if (the Israelis) should eradicate the Gaza Strip or kill thousands of us".
"We reject this logic. We want to preserve every drop of Palestinian blood," Mr Abbas said, before going into talks with the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. *AFP