Gaza cease-fire negotiations under way, but fighting rages on (+video)
An Israeli envoy was dispatched to Cairo to take part in Gaza cease-fire negotiations sponsored by Egypt. Turkey and Qatar will also take part.
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Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor. He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog. He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.
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As Israel's "Pillar of Defense" operation against Hamas and other Islamist militant groups in Gaza enters its sixth day, negotiations for a cease-fire are progressing in Cairo, according to reports. But a resolution is not imminent, despite indications that the "window is closing" for Israel to conduct military operations without opposition from its Western allies.
Independent Palestinian outlet Ma'an News Agency reports that Palestinian Liberation Organization official Nabil Shaath said Sunday that negotiations in Cairo between Palestinian groups and an unnamed Israeli delegate are progressing, but that a cease-fire "is not likely to take effect in the coming days." Mr. Shaath, who has been in contact with Hamas officials over the status of talks, added that the negotiations are being sponsored by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, with Turkey and Qatar also playing significant roles.
Although the Israeli prime minister and the defense ministry declined to comment, an anonymous Israeli official confirmed to Haaretz that an Israeli envoy is indeed in Cairo to negotiate a cease-fire.
The Jerusalem official confirmed an Associated Press report that said that an Israeli envoy landed on Sunday afternoon at Cairo’s main international airport and was whisked away in a heavily fortified convoy of vehicles. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry declined to comment.
Senior officials in Jerusalem say that Israel is keen to reach a two-stage cease-fire agreement. The first stage would be based on a principle that Israel has used many times before in its dealings with Palestinian militant groups, whereby if they cease their attacks on Israeli targets, the Israel Defense Forces would halt its offensive operations. An Egyptian official involved in the talks confirmed that this was the direction of the current negotiations, telling Haaretz that “we are working toward a small cease-fire before trying to achieve a big cease-fire.”
The Jerusalem Post writes that Hamas is seeking an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and to Israel's assassinations of its officials, like the high-profile assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, which prompted the current fighting. In addition to an end to rockets into its territory, Israel wants Hamas and other Palestinian militants to stop smuggling weapons into Gaza and to stay away from the security zone between Gaza and Israel. The Post notes that Hamas officials were unaware of the Israeli delegate's presence in Cairo.