Egypt Sources: Cairo Leading Intense Push for Israel-Hamas Ceasefire

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Cairo is leading intense efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, senior Egyptian sources told Haaretz on Saturday. The efforts, they said, were led by Egyptian Intelligence Minister Rafat Shehata.

Shehata has been conducting meetings in the Egyptian capital with the head of Hamas' politburo Khaled Meshal and his deputy Moussa Abu Marzuk. According to the sources, Egyptian intelligence hopes to achieve agreement on a ceasefire that could go into effect within the next 24-48 hours.

It was not yet clear what the principles of this ceasefire would be, but it's possible that Egypt will agree to a gesture toward Hamas by lifting some of the limitations it places on the entrance of goods through the Rafah crossing.

The reported push for lull in fighting began on Friday, as soon as Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil culminated his visit to the Gaza Strip.

As part of the efforts to reach ceasefire agreement between the sides, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar's Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi were holding a meeting in Cairo.

Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal was also in Cairo, along with Ramdan Shallah, the Islamic Jihad secretary-general. Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesslem who is visiting in Gaza, is expected to arrive in Cairo later on Saturday.

On Saturday, Gaza was visited by another high-level Arab official, Abdesslem, who said Tunisia would work in the United Nations and the Arab League to stop Israel's "flagrant aggression" in the Strip.

"Israel should understand that many things have changed and that lots of water has run in the Arab river," Abdesslem said as he surveyed the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reduced to rubble in an overnight air strike.

"[Israel] should realize it no longer has a free hand. It does not have total immunity and is not above international law," he added. "What Israel is doing is not legitimate and is not acceptable at all."

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil (L) and senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh waving to people in Gaza City November 16, 2012. Credit: Reuters

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