- (Photo: Reuters/Suhaib Salem)
- (Photo: REUTERS)
As the death toll in the Israel–Hamas conflict rose to 97 Monday morning, Egypt's prime minister has said that negotiations for a truce were being discussed, with the Arab League and countries around the world hoping the deadly aerial assaults will soon come to an end.
"Negotiations are going on as we speak and I hope we will reach something soon that will stop this violence and counter-violence," Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said in Cairo during the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit.
"I think we are close, but the nature of this kind of negotiation (means) it is very difficult to predict," Kandil added. Egyptian intelligence Chief Mohammed Shehata has been trying since Saturday to force a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but over the weekend Israeli rockets killed another 24 civilians in Gaza, where the main fighting rages on.
On Monday morning, Shehata noted that negotiators had received a letter from Hamas issuing cease-fire conditions, although details about those conditions were not presently available.
Moshe Ya'alon, Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs and Vice Prime Minister, has already made his government's terms clear in a Twitter message, where he wrote:
"If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel's citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack."
Talks of a truce have provided a way forward for Egyptian officials brokering the deal, and they have expressed hopes that they can at least put an end to the violence before holding further negotiations between the two sides.
"What we are trying to agree on is to achieve a cease-fire and achieve some possible guarantees, and then later discuss more guarantees," added another Egyptian official on Monday, who declined to be identified.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also flown to the region to speak with Mideast leaders and appeal for a cease-fire.
"This must stop," Ban said on Sunday, adding that he is fully behind Egypt's efforts to broker peace between Hamas and Israel.
"I am heading to the region to appeal personally for ending the violence and contribute to ongoing efforts to that end," he added.
Officials said to be involved in the peace talks include senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath, according to CNN. The network reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be meeting Ban during his visit. Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu's direct role in the negotiations was unclear, although a special Israeli delegation would be present in Egypt for talks.
Hamas, known as the Palestinian Sunni Islamic political party, is recognized as a terrorist organization by some, including the United States and the European Union. The party, with ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, was democratically elected in 2006 to lead the Palestinian parliament.
Israeli is firm in its view of Hamas, with Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly telling the press on Sunday, "We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the (other) terrorist organizations, and IDF is prepared for a significant expansion of its operations."
Israel launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip last Wednesday, killing a top Hamas official in what the IDF says was a response to the growing threat from the organization. Since then, both sides have traded heavy rocket fire, with many of the dead being Palestinians, while three are Israelis.
The number of dead and injured vary slightly according to different sources, with Palestinian emergency services saying that at least 92 people have been killed in Gaza since the attacks began last week, and that another 750 have been injured.
Egypt is not the only country leading the call for truce – on Tuesday, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby and 16 other foreign ministers are expected to arrive in Gaza to try and broker peace talks.