22 Jan 2009

Egypt talks on ceasefire in Gaza

10:47 pm on 22 January 2009

An Israeli envoy is due in Cairo on Thursday for talks aimed at finding a lasting ceasefire in Gaza, following Israel's three-week offensive there.

Amos Gilad wants Egypt to guarantee it will act to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Hamas militants across its border with Gaza.

Egypt has acted as a mediator between Israel and Palestinian militants, including Hamas, during the three-week conflict in Gaza.

Representatives from Hamas are expected for talks in Cairo on Sunday.

Israel unilaterally announced its ceasefire last Saturday and later withdrew its troops from Gaza.

Hamas also declared its own week-long ceasefire which ends on Sunday.

Now Cairo's challenge is to translate the current fragile truce into a mutual longer-term deal, the BBC reports.

EU help sought to stop weapons smuggling

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday asked the European Union to held end the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.

At a meeting in Brussels, Ms Livni said this was essential to the creation of a lasting ceasefire.

Hamas is demanding an immediate re-opening of Gaza's border crossings and lifting of an Israeli blockade.

Israel intensified its blockade of the Palestinian enclave when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip by force in June 2007.

It has refused to fully open border crossings to allow desperately needed aid, goods and construction materials into Gaza.

The United Nations has urged Israel to fully open all crossings with Gaza to allow a free flow of goods to the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

At least 1,300 Palestinians were killed, nearly a third of them children, and 5,500 injured in the Israeli operation, which began on 27 December, Palestinian medical sources in Gaza say.

Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, have been killed, the Israeli army says.