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REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF \
Liberman denies Israel, Hamas reach deal on Gaza cease-fire
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem..
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday denied earlier reports that Israel and Hamas had reached an agreement on a cease-fire that would put an end to the fighting as of Friday morning.Liberman's denial came minutes after Reuters quoted an Israeli official as saying that Israeli senior representatives at talks in Cairo had accepted an Egyptian proposal for a comprehensive Gaza cease-fire starting on Friday, but Israel's leaders still had to approve the deal.The official, who earlier said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision-making security cabinet had agreed to the truce, later told Reuters the forum had not yet voted and was still examining its details.In Gaza, there was no immediate comment from Hamas or other Palestinian groups on whether they had accepted a permanent cease-fire to end warfare now in its 10th day. Earlier Thursday, Israel and Hamas reportedly agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire that would put an end to the 10-day operation in the Gaza Strip.The BBC quoted an Israeli official as saying that the two sides have agreed to a deal that will take effect on Friday at 6 a.m. local time.An Israeli official also told Reuters on Thursday there is an agreement for a comprehensive Gaza ceasefire starting on Friday.In Gaza, there was no immediate confirmation from Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups that they had agreed to halt 10 days of cross-border warfare."There is an agreement for a ceasefire beginning tomorrow. I believe it is six in the morning [local time]," the official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. The official said Israeli leaders approved a truce after a senior Israeli delegation held talks in Egypt.There has yet to be official confirmation from either the Israeli government or Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip of the two reports.Channel 10 on Thursday quoted an Israeli official as saying that the BBC report was "incorrect."An Israeli delegation was in Cairo on Thursday for Egyptian-mediated cease-fire talks with Hamas aimed at bringing the latest round of fighting to an end.According to the Egyptian daily Al-Yom as-Saba'a, Palestinian sources reported that Israeli and Hamas representatives were staying in a well-known hotel in Cairo. The report stated that government officials were shuttling back and forth between their rooms with proposals for a cessation of hostilities. Egyptian officials relayed to the Israelis the conditions that Hamas has demanded be met before agreeing to a cease-fire – the opening of all crossings on the Gaza-Israel border, the permanent opening of the Rafah crossing that serves as the terminal between Gaza and Sinai in addition to international guarantees that the crossing will not be closed, permitting maritime access to Gaza, permitting Gaza residents to pray at al-Aksa Mosque, releasing the Palestinians who were freed in the Gilad Schalit deal but then re-arrested after the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens last months, and an Israeli commitment to honor an agreement that Egypt brokered regarding the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.According to the report, Israel rejected Hamas' demand for Gazan access to the Al-Aksa Mosque and the release of the Schalit prisoners. Israeli officials said the issue of re-releasing the prisoners was "not up for discussion" since it would harm the country's security. In the first meeting of its kind since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Cairo with senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk on Wednesday.The meeting was held shortly after Abbas arrived in Egypt for talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on ways of ending the fighting.Abbas is also expected to visit Turkey in the context of his efforts to seek an end to the operation.The meeting between Abbas and Marzouk came shortly after Hamas notified the Egyptians of its rejection of their cease-fire proposal, which called for an end to the fighting as of Tuesday morning.PA officials said that Abbas has also been holding consultations by phone with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who is based in Qatar, in a bid to persuade him to accept the Egyptian plan.Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that his movement rejected the cease-fire proposal because it does not meet the conditions of the Palestinian “resistance” groups in the Gaza Strip.
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