Sunday 21 January 2018

New Gaza plan as UN plea ignored

James Bone in New York and Martin Fletcher in Sderot

A PLAN to create a new foothold in Gaza for the Palestinian Authority and international monitors was being drawn up by diplomats yesterday as a UN ceasefire call was dismissed by both sides.



The plan would allow a return of the Palestinian Authority, led by the secular Fatah faction, to the territory 18 months after it was expelled by the Islamist Hamas.

Diplomats are considering taking a triangle at the southern end of Gaza, including the Rafah crossing to Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing to Israel, to be policed by Turkish and French military monitors to stop arms smuggling into Gaza.

The zone would nominally be under the control of the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognised government. Such a proposal would allow the crossings to reopen for the first time since Hamas seized power in June 2007.

The plan is being negotiated as part of the Egyptian peace initiative, announced by President Mubarak after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which calls for an immediate ceasefire to be followed by talks on securing the Gaza-Egypt border and reopening the crossings. It faces formidable obstacles. Diplomats said yesterday that the Egyptian efforts were getting bogged down because of disagreements over how to secure the border.

Hamas has said it would consider allowing observers at the border crossings with Egypt but opposes the deployment of an international force.

Smuggling

Israel, however, is insisting on a robust international force to destroy smuggling tunnels under the border.

Egypt, for its part, does not want international troops on its territory. Instead, Cairo wants to revive the 2005 agreement on movement and access, under which EU monitors oversaw the passage of people through the Rafah crossing and vehicles through Kerem Shalom, a deal that fell through when Hamas came to power.

The new plan came as the UN ceasefire proposal was flatly rejected almost as soon as the Security Council had voted for it 14-0, with the US abstaining.

Yesterday morning F16s continued to fire missiles at the densely packed houses and apartment blocks of Gaza City, and the air reverberated with the boom of artillery fire.

Rockets also repeatedly streaked out of Gaza towards the settlements of Sderot, Beersheba and Ashkelon just across the border.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, said in a statement: "Israel has never agreed for any outside influence to decide on its right to defend its citizens. The firing of rockets this morning only goes to show that the UN decision is unworkable and will not be adhered to by the murderous Palestinian organisations." (©The Times, London)

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