Israel and Hamas agree to meet for talks on Gaza
Published Wednesday, January 7, 2009 5:55PM EST
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 9:54PM EDT
Egypt's UN Ambassador says that Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, have agreed to meet in Cairo Thursday to discuss the Gaza crisis.
The ambassador says the parties involved have agreed to send a technical delegation to Cairo to discuss the French-Egyptian initiative to stop the fighting in Gaza.
The plan's details are unclear at this time, but the initiative calls for a limited ceasefire in Gaza to allow humanitarian aid to flow into the area.
The news comes after fighting restarted in Gaza Wednesday after a brief halt in the violence to allow in humanitarian aid.
Israel has said it will only agree to a ceasefire if Hamas stops its rockets attacks, while Hamas has demanded Israel end its blockade of border crossings that has made fuel and food scarce in the territory.
Nearly two weeks of fighting have left more than 660 people dead in the Gaza Strip. The United Nations estimates as many as 25 per cent are civilians, while local Palestinian groups say it's even higher, but no one has specific numbers.
In Paris Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said both Israel and the moderate Palestinian leadership in the West Bank had accepted the truce proposal.
Israel government spokesman Mark Regev told BBC News that his country has agreed "on the principles" of the plan but that the challenge now was to work out the details.
In an earlier interview with CTV's Canada AM, Regev said Israel wants a sustainable solution that will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians so that the combat can "finish sooner rather than later."
"The two vital ingredients for that sustainable peace are the total absence of hostile fire from Gaza into Israel... and the second point, not less important, is that Hamas won't be allowed to rearm," Regev said from Jerusalem on Wednesday.
He said if Hamas is allowed to re-arm then the situation will go "back to square one" and a similar crisis like the current one will happen again in a few months.
"We have to make sure that there's an arms embargo that's internationally supported," Regev said.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said the plan calls for an immediate ceasefire by both sides for a limited period to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.
The plan also would include an urgent meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss how to prevent further military action and to deal with the root of the conflict.
In Turkey, a diplomat said Wednesday that country would be responsible for putting together an international force for Gaza.
Aside from today's temporary ceasefire, Regev said Israel will be imposing a stoppage of military action "continually" over the next few days.
"There wasn't a shortage of supplies inside the Strip because we've had the crossings open everyday and scores of semi-trailers have been going in with food and medicine," he said.
"There was a problem inside the Gaza Strip that supplies were in storehouses and they weren't getting out because of the difficult combat situations.
"By providing this humanitarian window we're allowing for the distribution of these supplies to the people who need them -- which is what we want."
Iyad Nasr, with the International Red Cross, painted a very different picture from inside Gaza Wednesday.
"The aid that has been brought into Gaza... (is) hardly sufficient to cope with the crisis and to handle the emergency situation on the ground," Nasr told CTV Newsnet.
Nasr said aid groups are working to the maximum "to prevent a full breakdown of the system."
Of those civilians killed in Gaza, at least 130 are children age 16 and under, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
"What is going on, on the ground, does not need three hours or three days, it needs a full stop of violence that is affecting civilians," Nasr said.
Nasr said more than 30 to 40 per cent of casualties are women and children. He also said 70 per cent of Gazans do not have access to portable water and even if water is available there is no electricity to pump it up to buildings.
Nasr said mothers are risking their safety to stand in line for some bread because food is so scarce.
With files from The Associated Press