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Israel-Gaza truce sought as Quartet meets

Monday, March 12, 2012 2:30 AM


UNITED NATIONS, March 12 (UPI) -- Egypt sought to broker a truce between Israel and Gaza militant groups as U.N. talks were to begin on reviving talks aimed at negotiating a Palestinian state.

Hamas, the Palestinian Sunni Islamist political party governing the Gaza Strip, said on television Israel told Egypt it would stop airstrikes on Gaza at midnight Monday, Israel Radio reported.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Egypt's peace brokering followed an urgent meeting between a high-level Hamas delegation and Egyptian officials in Cairo on ending the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence outbreak in a year.

At the same time, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas discussed cease-fire prospects with Hamas Chairman Khaled Mashaal, Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Shallah and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Araby, the authority said.

The sudden flare-up of hostilities, after months of relative calm, began Friday when Israeli air-to-ground missiles killed the leader of one of the militant groups, the Popular Resistance Committees, and his son-in-law assistant in Gaza.

Israel said it targeted Zuhair al-Qaissi, the commander of the PRC's armed wing, to thwart a terrorist attack the group was planning against Israelis from across the border with Egypt.

The explosion destroyed al-Qaissi's car and killed his son-in-law, Mahmoud Hanini, also a top PRC field commander, Israel said. Another low-ranking Gaza militant also died.

Militants in Gaza -- identified by The Jerusalem Post as largely from the PRC and Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- retaliated to the killing by firing at least 160 rockets into southern Israel by Sunday night.

Israel's air force struck back at numerous rocket-firing squads and facilities used by the militant groups.

The violence killed at least 18 Palestinians, mostly fighters, since Friday, Palestinian officials said. At least 10 of the dead belonged to the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, the group said in a statement, but Palestinian officials said one of the dead was a 12-year-old boy in the northern Gaza Strip, killed by Israel Sunday morning.

The Israeli military said it would check the report.

No Israelis were killed, but 15 people were treated for shock after being near rockets that hit an empty school and a parked car Sunday, Haaretz reported.

Israeli Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Haim Waxman sent a letter calling on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Security Council members to "unequivocally condemn" the Palestinian militant groups' attacks on Israel and to do everything in their power to "stop the rocket fire that continues to rain down on Israeli civilians, in violation of every precept of international law."

Ban and the Security Council had no immediate comment.

Chief Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed Israel for the escalation and called on Washington to halt the Israeli military operations and help restore calm.

Washington had no immediate comment.

Erekat, part of a Palestinian team negotiating with Israel to establish a Palestinian state, also appealed to the United Nations, the European Union and Russia -- which along with the United States make up the Quartet of Middle East negotiators -- to get Israel to stop the airstrikes.

The Quartet was to meet with Ban at the United Nations Monday to discuss how to revive the stalled peace talks.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were to meet with Ban ahead of a special Security Council session on the Arab Spring uprisings, the U.N. press office said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Quartet envoy Tony Blair were to participate by video link, the office said.

The Quartet, which last met in September, seeks to reach a negotiated solution by the end of this year to create a legal Palestinian state.

(Source: UPI )
(Source: Quotemedia)

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