Israel to consider Egypt-backed Gaza truce proposal

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JERUSALEM: Israel said on Sunday it would consider an Egyptian-brokered Gaza Strip ceasefire proposal signed by 12 Palestinian factions but remained non-committal about its prospects for success.

We have to examine the proposal from the Egyptians, who are an important strategic element in the region, Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told public radio.

Egypt s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman is due in Jerusalem on Monday to present the truce proposal – signed by every major Palestinian faction including Hamas – to Israeli leaders, army radio reported.

Omar Suleiman will come here, we will listen to him and we will see what he is proposing. Then we will make decisions, but at the moment nothing has been put on the table, Vilnai said.

Israel was also expected to inquire about the length of any ceasefire and the fate of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier seized by Palestinian militants in 2006 and currently being held by Hamas at a secret location.

The talks with Suleiman will also focus on future control over the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt – the only one that bypasses Israel.

Israel has demanded that the crossing be governed by a 2005 agreement that included European Union monitors and Israeli electronic surveillance, while the Islamist Hamas movement has repeatedly rejected any foreign involvement.

In late April the leaders of the Palestinian factions – including the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and its Hamas rivals – agreed on a proposed ceasefire in Gaza to be expanded later into the West Bank.

Since Hamas seized power in Gaza nearly 11 months ago after ousting forces loyal to Abbas, Israel has carried out near-daily raids on the territory as militants have fired hundreds of rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel. -AFP

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