'Ceasefire unlikely in coming days, but progress made'

PLO official: Agreement will take several days.

Khaled Mashaal meets Muhamed Mursi in Egypt (photo credit: REUTERS)
Khaled Mashaal meets Muhamed Mursi in Egypt
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is unlikely in the coming days, but negotiators made some progress, PLO official Nabil Shaath told Ma'an News Agency late Sunday night.Earlier on Sunday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri announced that efforts to achieve a cease-fire between his movement and Israel had failed.Some Hamas officials said they did not rule out the possibility that the Egyptians would succeed in reaching a deal to end the violence in the next few hours or days, despite Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri’s talk about the failure of the cease-fire talks.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met in Cairo with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and discussed with him ways of ending the current round of fighting earlier in the evening.Later, Morsi also met with Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah and discussed with him the situation in the Gaza Strip.
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According to Ma'an, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in direct contact with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on the talks.
Shaath also said Hamas was prepared to resume unity negotiations with Abbas's Fatah faction once the military conflict with Israel ended.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh phoned Morsi Sunday and discussed with him the prospects of achieving a cease-fire, Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip said.
The officials said that they were unaware of the presence of an Israeli official in Cairo for talks on a cease-fire. Israeli media had reported that an Israeli official was in Cairo for the talks.
Hamas has set two conditions for accepting a cease-fire: lifting the military blockade on the Gaza Strip and international assurances that Israel would stop assassinations and other military measures.
Israel in turn demanded that Hamas and other terrorist groups stop smuggling weapons into the territory and that Palestinians in Gaza refrain from approaching a security zone by the border.
Israel has not officially confirmed information on the Cairo talks. Officials have said that Hamas is looking to end this round of hostilities, while Israel wants to end the threat of rockets and create a new reality on the ground.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday Israel was open to discussing ways to de-escalate the conflict with Gaza, but not while terror groups in the Strip continue to fire rockets at Israel.
“We are willing to consider all the suggestions offered by our friends in the world,” Liberman said, “but the first and most important condition is that terror organizations in Gaza must stop firing.
“As soon as they commit to stop firing, we are prepared to consider all proposals raised.”
As Israel prepared for the possibility of sending ground forces into Gaza, international leaders scurried to the region in hopes of helping broker a ceasefire agreement or at the very least de-escalating the conflict.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrives in Egypt Monday for talks with the Egyptian president and other officials, the Egyptian foreign Ministry reported on Sunday. He is expected to travel from there to Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Ban said that when he arrived he would personally appeal to both sides to end the violence.
“I am deeply saddened by the reported deaths of more than 10 members of the Dalu family, including women and children, and additional Palestinian civilians killed as a result of the ongoing violence in the Gaza strip,” he said.
He added that he was also alarmed by the continued rocket attacks that have killed a number of Israelis.
“This must stop. I strongly urge the parties to cooperate with all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate cease-fire. Any further escalation will inevitably increase the suffering of the affected civilian populations and must be avoided,” he said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was in the region Sunday. He met with Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Liberman.
“We must prevent war in the long run, and arrange a cease-fire as soon as possible in the short run,” Fabius told Peres.
“France is a peace-seeking nation; we maintain relations with everyone and will do all in our power to assist in returning quiet to the region,” Fabius said.
German Foreign Minister Guide Westerwelle will be in Israel and the Palestinian territories Monday, as will the Quartet’s special envoy Tony Blair.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is also expected to visit Gaza later this week.
Abu Zuhri said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad were “fully coordinated” in their position regarding the confrontation with Israel.
He was referring to reports that talked about differences between the two parties over reaching a cease-fire with Israel.
According to the reports, Islamic Jihad was strongly opposed to a cease-fire with Israel at this stage, while some Hamas political leaders have asked the Egyptians and Qataris to help end the fighting.
But as the Egyptians stepped up their efforts to end the fighting, Hamas’s armed wing Izaddin Kassam vowed to continue launching rockets and missiles at Israel to avenge the killing of Palestinians by the IDF on Sunday.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said that Arab League Secretary- General Nabil Elarabi was expected to visit Gaza City on Monday to express solidarity with the Palestinians against the IDF offensive.
Elarabi will be accompanied by the foreign ministers of Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, the sources said.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday dispatched top Fatah official Nabil Shaath to the Gaza Strip to receive the Arab League delegation.
However, it was not clear whether Hamas would allow PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki to enter the Gaza Strip together with the delegation.
Some Hamas activists expressed opposition to Malki’s visit.
Abbas, meanwhile, called or an emergency Arab summit to discuss ways of ending the Israeli “aggression” on the Gaza Strip.
In a televised speech, the second of its kind in the past three days, Abbas said he has asked his foreign minister to contact Arab governments to arrange a summit as soon as possible.
Abbas repeated his charge that the IDF operation was aimed at thwarting his plan to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade the status of a Palestinian state later this month.
He said that despite the current round of fighting nothing would stop him from presenting his request to the UN on November 29.
Abbas said he was in touch with Mashaal to find a way to end the violence and end the Hamas-Fatah dispute.
Jerusalem Post Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.