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Continuing deadlock in ceasefire negotiations

Article published on the 2009-01-16 Latest update 2009-01-16 14:48 TU

An Israeli soldier adjusting the barrel of a tank near the northern Gaza Strip.(Photo: Reuters)

An Israeli soldier adjusting the barrel of a tank near the northern Gaza Strip.
(Photo: Reuters)

"I assure you - despite all the destruction in Gaza, we will not accept Israel's conditions for a ceasefire," said Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, from a regional summit in on Friday.

"We tell our loved ones in Gaza, the [Israeli] aggression will soon perish on the rock of your steadfastness," said Meshaal.

"Our demands are - that the aggression stops, that the enemy retreats completely from Gaza, that the blockade is lifted without ever returning to it, and that the border crossing at Rafah is opened," he said from Doha in Qatar.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and representatives from the Egyptian government were absent from the meeting, as talks took place in Cairo with Israeli envoy Amos Gilad.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni went to the US to sign an agreement on preventing arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza.

Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev told the AFP news agency that he thinks the end of the offensive is near.

"There is a lot of diplomatic activity and at the same time the military pressure on Hamas continues," he said.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called for all Arab countries to completely cut ties with Israel and close embassies.

While in Europe on Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said "intervention is not reinforcing Israel's security."

"The crisis in Gaza is a useless and bloody humanitarian tradegy," Sarkozy said from Paris.

The death toll continued to rise on Friday with at least 1,139 people killed in Operation Cast Lead, with NGOs particularly worried about the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

"The last few days, we’ve received a lot of very, very severe injuries," said Amjad Shawa, Coordinator for Palestinian NGOs.

"Unfortunately about two-thirds of the patients did not survive after 24 hours … we cannot say that we have a problem with beds, because the turnover of patients is very quick," Shawa told RFI, from Gaza.

Interview: Amjad Shawa, Coordinator Palestinian NGOs, Gaza

16/01/2009 by Salil Sarkar