Sunday, January 18, 2009
16:12 Mecca time, 13:12 GMT
News Middle East
Egypt hosts Gaza ceasefire summit
Abbas called for a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from within the Gaza
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president, is hosting European and Middle East leaders
for a hastily called summit to attempt to bolster Israel's declared cessation
of hostilities in Gaza.
The meeting at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday is being
attended by the presidents of France, Turkey and Jordan, secretaries-general of
the United Nations and the Arab League, prime ministers of the UK, Italy,
Spain, Czech Repulic and Germany's chancellor.
Despite previous confusion, senior aides accompanying Mahmoud Abbas, the West
Bank-based Palestinian president, confirmed he would be attending the
conference as well.
"Our top priority now is to make sure this ceasefire holds so we can move on to
national reconciliation and reconstruction," Abbas's spokesman told Al Jazeera.
It was not immediately clear whether Israel would send a representative, and
Hamas, which forms the de facto government in Gaza, has not been invited.
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, had declared a unilateral end to fighting
in Gaza late on Saturday after three weeks of Israeli assault on the
Palestinian territory left more than 1,200 people dead and caused billions of
dollars worth of infrastructure damage.
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The stated aim of the offensive was to halt Palestinian rocket attacks into
southern Israel and disable the Hamas movement. Olmert announced the cessation
claiming Israel had achieved its military objectives.
Israel decided on its unilateral ceasefire in preference to entering into an
Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas, analysts say.
This allows Israel to avoid agreeing concessions with the Palestinian groups,
such as easing the blockade that has prevented medical aid and basic supplies
from reaching the civilian population in Gaza.
Egypt has been pushing Israel and the rival Palestinian factions to negotiate a
Mubarak met Abbas in Cairo on Sunday ahead of the summit to discuss how to open
Gaza's border crossings and mobilise humanitarian aid in the territory.
Abbas called for a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza after
meeting Mubarak earlier.
Referring to Israel's stated intention to end its offensive in Gaza, Abbas said
"the ceasefire is important and necessary but insufficient".
"There must be a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a reopening of
crossing points to allow the arrival of aid to the Palestinian people of Gaza,"
he said, as quoted by MENA, the official Egyptian news agency.
The six European leaders at the summit planned to visit Israel later on Sunday.
Mubarak is expected to travel to Kuwait on Monday for an Arab economic summit,
which has shifted its focus to the crisis in Gaza.
Arab leaders have faced sharp criticism for an apparent lack of action over
Israel's offensive in Gaza, and even organising a meeting has highlighted deep
An emergency summit held in Doha earlier in the week saw Qatar and Mauritania
severing ties with Israel, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia refused to attend.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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