November 21, 2012

Mideast cease-fire closer but still elusive

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is dispatched to join a group of world leaders working to halt the violence.

By Josef Federman and Ibrahim Barzak / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discuss their peace efforts on Tuesday in Jerusalem.

Photos by The Associated Press

Mohammed Morsi
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Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has been thrust into the spotlight as his Islamist government performs a difficult balancing act of appeasing militants and the United States.

The crisis has thrust Egypt's president, Mohammed Morsi, into the spotlight as he plays a difficult balancing act.

Morsi belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' parent movement, and clearly sympathizes with the Islamic militant group. At the same time, he relies heavily on U.S. aid and is trying to preserve a historic peace agreement with Israel.

Earlier, Morsi raised hopes that a cease-fire was near when he predicted the negotiations would yield "positive results" during the coming hours.

Netanyahu also said his country would be a "willing partner" in a cease-fire agreement.

But as the talks stretched into the evening, it became clear that a deal remained a ways off.

"Most likely the deal will be struck tomorrow. Israel has not responded to some demands, which delayed the deal," Hamas official Izzat Risheq said.

Hamas officials refused to discuss the remaining sticking points.

Israeli media quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as telling a closed meeting that Israel wanted a 24-hour test period of no rocket fire to see if Hamas could enforce a truce.

Palestinian officials briefed on the negotiations said Hamas wanted assurances of a comprehensive deal that included new border arrangements – and were resisting Israeli proposals for a phased agreement. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Although Israel claims it has inflicted heavy damage on militants' capabilities, its roughly 1,550 airstrikes and shelling attacks have failed to halt the rocket fire.

Violence raged on as the talks continued.

An airstrike late Tuesday killed two journalists who work for the Hamas TV station, Al-Aqsa, according to a statement from the channel. A third journalist, from Al Quds Educational Radio, a private station, also was killed.

Israel claims that many Hamas journalists are involved in militant activities. Earlier this week it targeted the station's offices, saying they served as a Hamas communications post.

Israeli security officials acknowledge they rely on a network of Palestinian informants to identify targets. Masked gunmen publicly shot dead six suspected collaborators with Israel in a large Gaza City intersection on Tuesday, witnesses said.

An Associated Press reporter saw a mob surrounding five of the bloodied corpses shortly after the killing.

Hamas did not provide any evidence against the alleged collaborators.

Clinton was also scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and Egyptian leaders in Cairo on Wednesday. Turkey's foreign minister and a delegation of Arab League foreign ministers traveled to Gaza on a separate truce mission.

 

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