independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Egypt's role in fragile truce shows changing landscape

ISRAEL and Hamas agreed last night to end more than a week of missile fire over the Gaza border, in a truce brokered by Egypt, a sign of the new political realities of the Middle East.

The declaration was made in Cairo by the Egyptian foreign minister, in front of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.

Under the terms of the truce, both sides will hold off from hostilities until further notice. After the truce has held for 24 hours, talks will begin to address Hamas's demand that Israel's blockade of Gaza be lifted.

There was no mention of Israel's requirement that Hamas be prevented from rearming, either immediately or in the future. But the deal was announced in Cairo by Mohammed Kamel Amr, the foreign minister of Egypt, through which any arms would have to travel to reach Gaza, standing alongside Mrs Clinton. The Israelis believe this amounts to a guarantee their security concerns have been accepted.

Fragility

Explosions continued in Gaza right up to the point the ceasefire came into effect at 9pm local time and, in a worrying development, two missiles were fired into Israel over the border to the north from Lebanon.

The fragility of the ceasefire was captured in the vague terms of the promise to conduct serious negotiations for a longer-term peace. "Other matters as requested shall be addressed," the ceasefire agreement said.

The deal was reached after 24 hours of frantic diplomacy in which Mrs Clinton landed in Jerusalem for talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and travelled on to Ramallah to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. She then flew to Cairo to hammer out a deal with Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt.

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