UN chief in Cairo for truce negotiations as Gaza death toll shoots up
Cairo: UN Chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday arrived in Cairo to help broker a ceasefire in the violence-stricken Gaza strip by supporting Egyptian-led efforts to strike peace between Israel and the Palestinian militants.
Ban, who is on Middle East visit, is expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and help negotiate a truce as more than 100 have been killed in six days of Israeli bombarding in Gaza strip.
Earlier Ban Ki-moon said he was headed to Cairo to “appeal personally” for ending the Gaza crisis, warning that any “further escalation” must be avoided.”
With bloodshed continuing, Egypt has taken a leading role in mediating between Israel and Hamas.
The details about the exact Egyptian plan are not available yet but both Israel and Hamas have presented their conditions.
Israel has asserted that it won’t tolerate any firing from Gaza and also that there must be international efforts to assure that Hamas is not armed again, while Hamas wants Israel to halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight restrictions on trade and movement in and out of the territory that have been in place since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.
With positions far apart on a comprehensive deal, some close to the negotiations suggested Egypt is first seeking a halt to fighting before other conditions are discussed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are in a sensitive stage.
Hamas, an offshoot of the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood, is negotiating from a stronger position than four years ago, when Israel launched a three-week war on the militants in Gaza. At that time, Hamas was internationally isolated; now, the Muslim Brotherhood is in power in Egypt and Tunisia, and Hamas is also getting political support from Qatar and Turkey.
President Barack Obama and other Western leaders have blamed Hamas for the latest outbreak of fighting, saying Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket attacks. However, they have also warned Israel against sending ground troops into Gaza, a move that would likely lead to a sharp increase in the Gaza death toll.
Over the years, Israeli governments have struggled to come up with an effective policy toward Hamas, which is deeply rooted in Gaza, a densely populated territory of 1.6 million.
Hamas has fired more than 1,000 rockets at Israel since the start of the latest offensive on Wednesday, kicked off by Israel's assassination of the Hamas military chief.