20 Nov 2012

Israel and Hamas spell out conditions for ceasefire

4:44 pm on 20 November 2012

As efforts to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas intensify, both sides have laid out their conditions for a truce.

Israeli bombardments on Gaza began last Wednesday following the killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari.

The Palestinian Authorities health minister, Dr Mufeed Mkhallalati,says at least 105 people have been killed in Gaza, many of them civilians.

Three Israelis have also died and more than 50 have been injured by rocket fire from Gaza.

Egypt is leading efforts to mediate, chairing marathon indirect negotiations in Cairo between Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and an Israeli envoy, the BBC reports.

Israeli officials say they have four conditions - including no hostile fire of any kind and an international effort to ensure that Hamas cannot re-arm.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal set out his views defiantly at a news conference, insisting that morale was high in Gaza and indicated that he did not want an Israeli invasion of the enclave.

Mr Meshaal said he was not against a ceasefire but there were specific demands, including an end to what he called Israeli aggression and thuggery and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

He refused to be drawn on precisely what would persuade Hamas to stop launching rockets from inside Gaza, but Palestinians have warned a week of conflict has barely dented their stockpile of weapons.

Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet has been meeting to discuss the future of the military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Officials are quoted as saying that any possible ground operations have been put on hold while the ceasefire talks continue.

But the fighting in Gaza has not stopped, with fresh reports of bombings and rocket attacks.

UN boss arrives in Cairo

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Cairo on the first leg of a visit to support Egyptian-mediated efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Mr Ban is scheduled to meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Tuesday.

He will then travel to Jerusalem later in the day or on Wednesday, according to UN diplomats.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Mr Ban would also go to the Palestinian territories.

Mr Ban has already spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge restraint, while also strongly condemning the rocket attacks from Gaza that Israel blames for its air strikes and its military build-up around the besieged Palestinian territory, AFP reports.

"Ban went to the region during the last Israeli offensive against Gaza in 2009 and worked hard to end that conflict. He is looking to produce a truce and ceasefire this time as well," said one senior UN diplomat before the secretary-general's visit.