There is growing speculation that Egypt and Hamas are close to agreeing a deal for a 10-day ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group which governs Gaza.
Long term, key uncertainties remain over a deal under which Gaza’s borders would be opened and Israel’s troops withdrawn from the coastal enclave. But in the short term, there is optimism: “The Egyptian initiative is the only initiative made available to us. We are working on all the points presented and made our remarks after negotiating with the Egyptians and we hope that it will end successfully,” said a spokesman for Hamas after talks in Cairo. As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos in Jerusalem, plans were being made behind the scenes to send chief negotiator Amos Gilad to Cairo. Egyptian officials say if an agreement is reached it will be presented to Israel for consideration. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began a week of shuttle diplomacy with a stop in Egypt, where he called for an immediate halt to the fighting and an intensification in peace negotiations. He then flew on to the Jordanian capital, Amman, where he met King Abdullah the Second. Also on Ban’s itinerary are Israel, the West Bank, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait.