Egypt hosts Gaza ceasefire summit

Sharm el-Sheikh talks follow Israel's suspension of offensive in Gaza.

    Abbas called for a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from within the Gaza Strip [AFP]

    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.

    Unilateral cessation

    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 ceasefire agreement.

    Mubarak met Abbas in Cairo on Sunday on the eve of the summit to discuss how to open Gaza's border crossings and mobilise humanitarian aid in the territory.

    Israeli withdrawal

    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 divisions.

    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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