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12 Jan, 2009 21:58

Gaza war – search for peace goes on

Egyptian negotiators remain optimistic about the possibility of ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas, despite the fact that the two sides are locked in a bitter armed conflict.

Quoting an unnamed official source, Egypt’s state news agency MENA said Sunday’s negotiations on ending the conflict had been positive. Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had met with Hamas officials on the possibility of a truce.

However, pointing to the complexity of the situation in Gaza, officials are playing down the prospects of an early settlement.

Both sides rejected a UN ceasefire resolution last.

Israel is insisting on a halt to Hamas rocket attacks before it calls off its offensive.

It also wants concrete steps to stop Hamas rearming through the so-called Philadelphi corridor – a network of tunnels under the Egyptian border.

Western and Israeli diplomats are negotiating an international monitoring system to help Egypt stop weapon smuggling over its border. Egypt has yet to agree to any system.

Meanwhile, Hamas is refusing to consider a ceasefire until all Israeli attacks are stopped and the blockade of Gaza lifted.

Aid workers continue to push for an immediate ceasefire to allow desperately needed food and medical supplies into Gaza.

“Any minute that we lose is translated into human lives and the lives of children and women and innocent people in Gaza and the destruction of Gaza,” the chief negotiator for the Palestinian side Saeb Ereket said.