The UN Security Council has held an emergency meeting in New York to discuss the worsening crisis in Gaza. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner put strong pressure on Israel, saying he expects a response later today to a ceasefire proposal from Egypt.
Cairo’s plan has got the backing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also called for an immediate halt to the fighting. “I also intend to travel next week to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and to regional capitals,” he said. “But I do not believe we can wait until then to end the violence. We must achieve that now.” Diplomats say the UN discussions on a resolution were overtaken by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s proposal, which was partly brokered by France. It calls for a limited ceasefire to allow longer-term talks to take place. “Egypt invites Israel and all the Palestinian factions to an urgent meeting to discuss guarantees that an escalation will not happen and also how the borders may be secured and how to open the crossings safely and to end the siege on Gaza,” Mubarak told reporters. Cairo’s plan calls for aid to be allowed into Gaza as well as talks on border security – a key issue for Israel, which claims rockets are smuggled to Hamas-linked fighters via the Egyptian border. President Mubarak has invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Cairo today to discuss the proposals.