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Sisi says Egypt truce plan 'real chance' to end Gaza assault

Aug. 3, 2014 9:47 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 4, 2014 9:42 P.M.)
CAIRO (AFP) -- President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday an Egyptian truce plan provides a "real chance" to end the Gaza conflict, stressing the need for its speedy implementation.

A Palestinian delegation arrived in Cairo on Saturday to discuss a durable truce to end the fighting, a day after a temporary ceasefire collapsed with Israel and Hamas blaming each other.

"The Egyptian proposal is the real chance to find a solution to the crisis in Gaza and to end the bloodshed," Sisi told a joint news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"Time is decisive, we have to take advantage of it quickly to douse the fire in the (Gaza) Strip ... and to stop the bloodshed of Palestinians."

When the latest Gaza war erupted last month, Egypt -- the traditional broker in such conflicts -- cobbled together a ceasefire proposal, quickly backed by Israel, Arab governments, the United States and the United Nations, but brushed off by Hamas.

Hamas said that Egypt bypassed the Palestinian movement when offering the ceasefire proposal and did not bother to present it to the group before announcing it.

Sisi, who last year ousted the democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi, had moved to further isolate Hamas, a close ally of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood has faced a brutal police crackdown since Morsi's overthrow that has killed more than 1,400.

On Saturday, Sisi insisted that the Egyptian proposal could be the basis to launch negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

"It is the third time that there is Palestinian bloodshed," he said, referring to earlier conflicts in 2008 and 2012.

"We should take advantage of the difficult circumstances ... and we have a real chance to put an end to the current crisis and build on it a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause."

Renzi gave his backing to the Egyptian initiative and called for the release of an Israeli soldier said to have been captured by Hamas, that Israel has since said was actually "killed in action."

"I join my voice to the voices of European ministers in calling for the release of the captured Israeli soldier," Renzi said.

Hamas's armed wing has denied any knowledge about the fate of the missing Israeli.

A joint Palestinian delegation, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives, arrived in Cairo Saturday for talks for a longer-term truce in Gaza.

An Egyptian foreign ministry official, meanwhile, said Cairo has so far sent more than 1,000 tonnes of medical and food aid to Gaza through the Rafah crossing which has been opened for "humanitarian" reasons.

The official also said Egypt has received wounded Palestinians who are being treated in local hospitals.
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