Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire to begin Tuesday -UPDATED

Egypt asked Israel to accept a ceasefire as a first step toward comprehensive negotiations with Palestinians to end more than three weeks of attacks

Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire to begin Tuesday -UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinian factions to begin a three-day ceasefire in Gaza starting at 0500 GMT on Tuesday, and invited them to dispatch senior delegations to Cairo for negotiations aimed at reaching a longer-term deal.

"We hope this will secure a permanent ceasefire and restore stability," the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Israel said agreed to the proposal for a three-day ceasefire.

"We agree to begin implementing the Egyptian initiative. If the ceasefire is upheld there will be no need for any presence of (Israeli) forces in the Gaza Strip," said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Israeli media reports said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet had reached the decision in a round of phone calls.

Egypt has strong indications from Israel and the Palestinian factions that they will accept a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza, two Egyptian diplomatic sources said.

"Egypt has received very strong indicators on the acceptance by all parties of a 72-hour ceasefire starting at 5 a.m. GMT," one Egyptian source said.

"More delegations are due to arrive to Cairo soon to engage in the Egyptian initiative, which is mainly aimed at an immediate halt to the bloodshed through a comprehensive truce agreement."

Palestinian groups, including envoys of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, met the head of Egyptian intelligence in Cairo earlier in the day to formulate a plan to end the violence that has displaced more than one quarter of Gaza's 1.8 million people.

Immediately after the meeting, Egypt presented Israel with the key Palestinian demands: a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, an end to the blockade of the impoverished enclave and the reconstruction of the area.

An Egyptian diplomatic source said Cairo expected Israel to accept a temporary halt to the fighting to allow for talks.

"We are working to reach a ceasefire agreement and we are expecting Israel to approve a ceasefire for a few days," he said. "Egypt will announce that as soon as we get Israel's approval."

Israel has yet to give a formal response to the ceasefire plan, but an Israeli official who declined to be named said it could accept a ceasefire without preconditions.

"If we receive a proposal based on the Egyptian plan of a ceasefire without preconditions which will include rehabilitation of Gaza in exchange for disarmament, Israel will consider this favourably with a view to accepting it," he said.

Israel began aerial and naval bombardment of Gaza on July 8 and it later sent in ground forces.

Israel is seen as more likely to come to accept an end to the fighting in which Gaza officials say 1,804 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed.

Israel has confirmed that 64 of its soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian shelling has killed three civilians in Israel.

A Palestinian official affiliated with one of the resistance group said a temporary ceasefire would open the door to more comprehensive negotiations.

"Should Israel agree to the 72-hour ceasefire, Egypt would invite Israel to send a delegation to Cairo to conduct indirect negotiations with the Palestinian delegation over all issues," he said.


Egypt has positioned itself as a mediator in successive Gaza conflicts but, like Israel, it opposes Hamas and has struggled to seal a deal to end the latest fighting.

Media speculation that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns would fly to Egypt to participate in indirect truce talks had not been borne out by Monday.

A U.S. embassy spokesman declined to say if or when Burns might arrive. A U.S. official in Washington said acting special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Frank Lowenstein was on his way back from Cairo, suggesting the United States was following the talks closely.

A Hamas source in Doha said the group would not lay down arms unless Palestinian conditions were met.

Qatar has stayed out of the Egypt talks, but has continued consultations with Turkey and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry aimed at finding an end to the crisis should Egypt fail, a Gulf source and the Hamas official in Doha said.

For its part, Cairo might contemplate easing the limited freedom of movement across its own border with Gaza, but was unlikely to accept Palestinian calls to allow a normal flow of trade, Egyptian diplomatic sources said.

Egypt insists that any discussion over the Rafah border crossing take place bilaterally with the Palestinian Authority rather than as part of any overall deal between the Palestinians and Israel to ease the blockade, the sources said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Ağustos 2014, 23:40

Muhammed Öylek