UN Chief To Meet Israeli And Palestinian Leaders

November 19th, 201210:43 pm @


The UN secretary general will meet the Israeli and Palestinian leaders as part of a growing effort to stop the ongoing Gaza conflict.

Ban Ki-moon will host talks with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas this week.

Mr Ban arrived in Cairo late on Monday, where UN spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed that the UN chief would later meet Egypt’s foreign minister Mohammed Kamel Amr.

He is also due to host talks with Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi and Arab League chief Nabil al Arabi on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama has called both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Morsi to discuss ways to de-escalate the conflict.

In a statement, the White House said Mr Obama expressed regret for the deaths of Israeli and Palestinian civilians in his calls with both leaders.

The Israeli cabinet also met late met late on Monday to discuss an Egyptian proposal for ending the violence.

A report on Israeli public radio did not identify the main points of the Egyptian plan, which emerged following indirect negotiations in Cairo between Israeli officials and Palestinian representatives.

The report said Israel wanted to see a 24 to 48-hour truce take effect that could then be used to negotiate the finer details of a full ceasefire agreement.

There was no immediate indication on whether a firm decision on Egypt’s proposal would emerge from the cabinet meeting.

Gaza, left, and Ashkelon, in Israel, right, have been targeted

Both sides continued their attacks on Monday as the efforts to bring about a truce gathered pace.

One person was confirmed dead following a large explosion at a central Gaza building used by local and foreign media, including Sky News Arabia.

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said the dead man was Ramaz Harab, one of its senior commanders.

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) later said it had targeted a “hideout” used by senior operatives from Islamic Jihad.

It named four individuals, including Ramaz Harab, who were in the building and said they had been involved in firing rockets at Israel.

Health officials said several others were wounded in the attack, which is the second strike on the building in two days.

The IDF accused militants of “cynically (using) those inside civilian-populated institutions as human shields”.

The Hamas TV station Al Aqsa is located on the top floor of the building. The third floor took the brunt of the explosion.

The building is also said to house communications equipment used by Hamas.

Thousands of Israeli troops have been readied for a ground offensive

Israeli aircraft struck several crowded areas in the Gaza Strip, driving up the Palestinian death toll to above 90 over the six-day offensive, including 50 civilians, according to reports.

Hamas fighters have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since Wednesday, including one that hit an empty school in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Monday.

On the Israeli side, three civilians have died from Palestinian rocket fire since the violence erupted and dozens have been wounded. An Israeli rocket-defence system has intercepted hundreds of rockets bound for populated areas.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Monday that Mr Netanyahu has requested a truce – a claim denied by Israel – and he called on Israel to initiate a ceasefire because “they started the war”.

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo, Mr Meshaal called on rights groups to “expose” Israeli “crimes” and said Gaza-based Hamas would not yield to any Israeli conditions.

Israeli officials said earlier that the country was ready to launch a ground offensive but that it preferred a diplomatic solution.

After an initial lull in attacks on Monday morning, airstrikes escalated as Egypt was trying to broker a ceasefire with the help of Turkey and Qatar. Egypt’s prime minister said a peace deal between the two sides could be close.

In Gaza City, thousands of mourners attended funerals of four children who were killed on Sunday in an Israeli airstrike. The missile reduced their home to rubble – the Israeli navy said a wanted militant was hiding inside.

Turkey’s foreign minister and a delegation of Arab foreign ministers were expected in Gaza on Tuesday.

Middle East envoy Tony Blair met Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, for talks earlier and said he hoped both sides could find a way to end the violence.

Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/1013477