Mubarak warns Netanyahu against a new Gaza assault

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CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak warned Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu from any further action against the Gaza Strip during a meeting between the two in Sharm El Sheikh Thursday.

Mubarak “stressed Egypt’s rejection of any further aggression on Gazans warning of the latest Israeli threats and their repercussions on the stability and security of the region and the peace process in the Middle East,” according to a statement released by the Cairo Press Center.

Israel had launched an attack on Gaza in 2008 under Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed including at least 300 children. Egypt was fiercely criticized at the time for its perceived tacit acceptance of the attack and its continued refusal to permanently open the Rafah border crossing.

Bloomberg reported that Mubarak also asked Netanyahu to take “confidence-building” measures towards the Palestinians to propel the stalled peace talks, to which Netanyahu responded that Mubarak should ask the Palestinians “to move to serious, intensive, direct talks in which all the core issues will be raised.”

The Palestinian Authority — backed by the Arab League — is refusing to proceed to direct negotiations unless Israel agrees to freeze settlement expansion and building in disputed territories. Currently the status of the talks remains in the indirect phase arbitrated by US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell.

Also present at the meeting was Israeli Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benyamin Bin-Eliezer, who, according to the Jerusalem Post, enjoys a good relationship with Egyptian officials but was not pleased with the outcome of the meeting.

Ben-Eliezer reportedly said after the meeting, “I don’t want a photo-op; I want significant advancement in the peace process … The meeting was positive, but it’s definitely not enough. Talking to Mubarak can help start a process, but it is not the process,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

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