Egypt, the United Nations, the United States and the Arab League called on Friday for a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby announced an initiative for the humanitarian ceasefire to coincide with the Islamic festival of Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan.
Kerry announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to a 12-hour pause that he hopes to see extended to 24 hours. The seven-day humanitarian ceasefire could start on Sunday if all sides agree.
Kerry said he had been engaged in “countless discussions” with leaders around the world. Any agreement, he added, would aim to achieve “security for Israel and its people, and for Palestinians, to know that their social and economic future will be one of possibilities.”
He also announced he would travel to Paris Saturday to meet with “counterparts” to attempt to “narrow the gap” in negotiations.
Before the quartet announced the initiative in Cairo, Israeli media reports circulated saying that Israel’s security cabinet had rejected the most recent proposal. Kerry dismissed these reports, saying: “they may have rejected some language” and that there was no formal proposal presented.
Earlier on Friday a Senior Hamas official told Daily News Egypt that he expected a humanitarian ceasefire initiative to be announced but gave no indication of acceptance or rejection from the group.
Shoukry stressed that Egypt’s original ceasefire proposal, which was put forward ten days ago, “is still going on to achieve its goal”. Kerry reiterated that the Egyptian initiative continues to be the basis for a full ceasefire.
Hamas rejected the proposal from Egypt saying that the group was not officially approached to participate in the agreement. Israel, which accepted the proposal and suspended air strikes, resumed firing after Hamas’ position became clear. Three days later Israel began a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip following the failure of two humanitarian ceasefire attempts.
Ban reiterated his call for all sides to end hostilities. He presented a three pillar initiative: “first, stop fighting… second, start talking… third, tackle the root causes of the crisis”. The UN Chief pointed out that he has spent six days in the region meeting with leaders to find a way forward.
At least 848 Palestinians and 37 Israelis have been killed in Gaza since the start of the latest round of violence between Israel and Hamas and other groups based in the Palestinian territory. Of the 848 Palestinians 208 are children, 82 are women and 40 are elderly. Two of the 37 Israelis killed are civilians.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu travelled to Doha on Friday to meet with his Qatari counterpart and “[discuss] with the Palestinian side the recent stage reached in the negotiations”. Hamas’ senior leadership are currently staying in Qatar.
Earlier this week Shoukry, standing alongside Ban, said there would be no change to Egypt’s ceasefire proposals, stressing that it protects Palestinian people. Hamas has said it would not agree to a ceasefire without the lifting of the air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip implemented by Israel since 2007.
During the latest conflict concerns have increased over the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that as of Thursday, 1.2 million people had “no or very limited access to water or sanitation services” and at least 149,000 had sought refuge in UN Relief and Works Agency schools.
Additional reporting by Adam Koppeser