Gaza Strip - A team of Egyptian mediators on Thursday shuttled between Israel and Hamas in a stepped-up effort to forge a cease-fire between the two enemies.
The series of meetings came a day after a series of Israeli regime air strikes against Gaza. The four Egyptian intelligence officials entered Gaza from Israel on Thursday afternoon, and then returned to Israel after meeting with Esmail Haniyeh, Hamas’ top leader.
Khalil Al Haya, a top Hamas official, said the Egyptians had discussed cease-fire efforts, as well as on-and-off attempts at reconciliation with the rival Palestinian National Authority. The talks were ongoing.
Gaza’s economy has been ravaged by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that was imposed after the Hamas takeover in 2007. Hamas has been leading weekly protests near the Israeli border for over six months in an attempt to ease the blockade.
Those protests have intensified in recent weeks as Egyptian and UN cease-fire efforts faltered.
Last week, some 14,000 Palestinians thronged to the perimeter fence.
Seven Palestinians were shot dead by the occupation regime last Friday.
UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov urged all friends of Israel and the Palestinians to join the UN in calling on all sides “to step back from the brink” of war, calling Gaza a “powder keg.”
“We remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict, a conflict that nobody claims to want, but a conflict that needs much more than just words to prevent,” he told the UN Security Council in a video briefing from occupied Jerusalem.
“I am afraid that there is no more time for words,” Mladenov said. “Now is the time for action. And we must see very clear actions on all sides that de-escalate the situation. Otherwise, the consequences will be terrible for everyone.”
He said all parties must maintain their commitment under a cease-fire that ended a 2014 war - the third launched by the occupation regime on Gaza.