World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. State Secretary John Kerry arrived in Cairo late Wednesday from Tel Aviv for further talks with Egyptian officials on how to push towards a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, sources at the Cairo airport said.
Earlier in the day, Kerry left the Egyptian capital to Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before heading for a short visit to Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Speaking at a joint press conference with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Ramallah, Kerry said that there had been progress in the ceasefire talks.
Erekat, for his part, said Kerry had presented "serious ideas" to help hammer out a ceasefire deal, including the importance of providing guarantees to end the seven-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip, to allow Gaza fishermen to fish off the Gaza coast, and to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners recently re-arrested by Israel.
On Tuesday, Kerry said that an earlier Egyptian ceasefire proposal would be the "framework" for a ceasefire deal between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian factions.
Cairo presented its ceasefire proposal last week amid a fierce Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip, which continued unabated on Wednesday.
Since July 7, Israel has pummeled the Gaza Strip with fierce air and naval bombardments with the ostensible aim of halting Palestinian rocket fire.
Last week, Israel stepped up its offensive to include ground operations, sending thousands of troops into the embattled coastal enclave.
Israel's offensive has left over 700 Palestinians dead – mostly civilians.
Cairo's ceasefire proposal, initially accepted by Israel, was turned down by Gaza-based resistance factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who said they were never consulted about the terms of the plan.
Israel's ongoing "Operation Protective Edge" is the self-proclaimed Jewish state's third major offensive against the densely-populated Gaza Strip, which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians, within the last six years.
In 2008/9, over 1500 Palestinians – the vast majority of them civilians – were killed in Israel's three-week-long "Operation Cast Lead."
Hamas: No truce without lifting of blockade
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Wednesday that his group would not accept any ceasefire initiative with Israel in the Gaza Strip that does not end the years-long blockade on the Palestinian enclave.
"We would not take any initiative that does not meet the demands of the resistance, but we would accept any humanitarian truce that would allow the entry of relief assistance into Gaza," Meshaal told a press conference in Doha.
Meshaal also asserted that no one can disarm the Palestinian resistance groups. "There are two conditions for disarmament: removing the Israeli occupation and settlements and disarming Israel."
He said that there is a consensus among the Palestinian groups about the demands for the ceasefire. "What is needed now is to meet our demands, then setting the date to restore calm."
Meshaal also called on U.S. Secretary State John Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to visit Gaza. "Kerry has the right to visit Ramallah because it is the seat of the Palestinian presidency, but he also needs to visit Gaza because the decision-makers are there," he said.
"Ban also should visit Gaza to show sympathy with its residents," he added.
He also pointed out that Hamas has submitted its demands for ceasefire to Turkey, Qatar, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. "Hamas did not call for a ceasefire, but the United States and Israel asked Turkey and Qatar to mediate a truce," he added.
The Hamas leader said that the Palestinian people is "defending" themselves and did not start the war against Israel. "We are the victims, not Israel," he added.
He also dismissed describing Jewish settlers targeted by the rocket fire emanating from Gaza as "civilians." "They live on a land that is not theirs, and they sabotage and kill Palestinians."Last Mod: 24 Temmuz 2014, 10:10