Israel, Gaza Ceasefire Within 48 Hours, Says Egypt's PA Envoy

Egyptian diplomats in talks to bring about a ceasefire by Tuesday morning; Strategic Affairs Minister Ya'alon: Hamas approached Egyptian intelligence to pass message to Israel regarding the renewal of calm.

The Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority said on Monday that he expects Israel and Gaza to reach a ceasefire within 48 hours.

"Egypt is determined to reach a ceasefire within 48 hours," said Yasser Othman, adding that a ceasfire would be reached despite current difficulties and the refusal of Israel to stop its activities in the Gaza Strip.

An Iron Dome rocket being launched, Monday March 12, 2012 - AFP

Othman denied claims of a Hamas legislator Yunus al-Astal, that Egypt suggested a ceasefire in exchange for supplying petrol to the Gaza Strip. He added that an Egyptian team was currently in Gaza, in order to solve the petrol supply problem.

Egyptian intelligence officials have been leading efforts to mediate between Israel and Hamas in the last few days, in order to calm the escalation on the Israel-Gaza border.

Egyptian diplomats said on Monday that there is an effort to bring about a ceasefire by Tuesday morning.

"We hope that we will succeed to reach quiet tonight," said one Egyptian diplomat.

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that Hamas approached Egyptian intelligence and asked to pass a message to Israel regarding the renewal of calm.

"We do not carry out negotiations with Hamas," Ya'alon said.

"Our response through the Egyptians was very simple, this is basically our policy since the beginning of the current administration: if you are quiet, we will be quiet, if you shoot, or plot attacks, we will hit you, and so the ball is certainly in their court."

The Egyptian diplomat who is involved in the efforts to bring about the ceasefire said that Egyptian intelligence has been talking with Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau since Sunday, as well as with different Palestinian factions, with an emphasis on Hamas.

According to him, the attempt to reach an agreement for a ceasefire between Sunday night and Monday failed, after the two sides continued fire.

"We are doing everything to end this round of violence at the earliest opportunity possible," the Egyptian diplomat said.

"We will try again to do this today. We are continuing to work in order to have a quiet night. We want both sides to stop firing, but we still have not received final answers."