Palestinian leaders in joint call to end Israeli aggression, the death toll reaches 573…

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khalid Mishal issued a joint appeal for an end to “Israeli aggression” in Gaza during talks in Doha yesterday.

Meeting for the first time since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza on July 8, Abbas and Mishal also called for Israel to lift its blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory.

They “underlined the necessity of an end to the Israeli aggression and a lifting of the blockade”, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said.

Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior official in Abbas’s Fatah party, is to travel to Egypt, which last week proposed a ceasefire plan supported by the Arab League but rejected by Hamas, Erakat said.

According to Ahmed, “it was decided that there should be a ceasefire first, and we will continue discussions with Egypt and all regional and international sides until we crystallise the content of a final peace agreement”.

“Hamas and Abbas agreed that all Palestinian factions should work as a team towards a ceasefire,” he told AFP.

Abbas, who held talks with HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Sunday,  left Doha yesterday evening after a two-day visit to Qatar.  He was seen off on departure  at Doha International Airport by HE the Minister of Foreign Affairs  Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah.

World efforts to end two weeks of deadly violence in and around Gaza stepped up a gear yesterday as UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo to press for an immediate truce.

Ban, who was in Doha on Sunday, had a meeting with HH the Emir. Later addressing a joint press conference with Dr al-Attiyah, Ban said that Qatar and its leadership were vital to regional efforts to resolve the Gaza crisis.

“Qatar and its leadership are vital to regional efforts to resolve the crisis. That conviction was reinforced in the extremely productive meeting which I just had with HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. I want to thank HH the Emir and Minister al-Attiyah for all they are doing to end the fighting,” he had said.

In Cairo yesterday, Ban once again demanded the violence in Gaza “must stop now” as the death toll in the 14-day conflict hit 572 Palestinians and 27 Israelis.

Egypt, which had brokered past conflicts between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, had put forward a ceasefire accepted by Israel and spurned by the Hamas group, which demands an end to the blockade of the enclave.

In a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Ban urged “all parties to stop violence unconditionally and return to dialogue”.

The “violence must stop, it must stop now”, Ban said at a news conference.

Ban urged Israel to “exercise maximum restraint” saying: “Too many innocent people are dying.”

Shoukry said his government was still unwilling to concede to Hamas’s demands to alter the proposal. Egypt has condemned Israel’s bombardment of the coastal strip, but also blamed Hamas for rejecting the truce last week.

Kerry arrived in Cairo late yesterday and headed straight to consult Ban. US officials said that Kerry would meet the Egyptian leadership including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi today and had no set date to leave the region as he works to broker a ceasefire.

Hamas wants Israel to agree to an end to its blockade of Gaza and the release of scores of prisoners before it will agree to halt its attacks, the latest of which saw 10 fighters infiltrate southern Israel early yesterday.

US officials said that Kerry was maintaining contacts with Qatar and Turkey and was open to travel in the region.

The UN Security Council held urgent talks on the conflict late Sunday, expressing “serious concern” about the rising death toll and demanding “an immediate cessation of hostilities”. Source: Gulf Times