Israel Says It Accepts Egyptian Proposal For Cease-fire With Hamas

Israel says it has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Hamas. But without the militant group signing up as well, there may be little hope of seeing an end to the near constant exchange of fire that has so far killed more than 190 Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israeli security cabinet met early Tuesday morning and released a statement that said, "The cabinet has decided to reply positively to the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire at 9 a.m. (2 a.m. ET)."

The plan calls for all sides to cease hostilities in Gaza. It also calls for the opening of border crossings, once the security situation is stable, and for high-level talks among those involved.

Hamas officials did not immediately respond to the cabinet's decision. But since the cabinet's announcement, only one rocket was fired from Gaza into its territory, the Israeli military said.

Earlier, Hamas mocked the proposal in public, with a spokesman describing it as a "joke."

"We did not receive this declared paper from the Egyptians ... which means it's an initiative for the media. It's not a political initiative," said Osama Hamdan.

Speaking on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," he continued: "It's not really an initiative. It's not really an idea, what they are trying to do is to corner the Palestinians and to help the Israelis more."

Hamas' military wing, the Qassam Brigades, said it hadn't received any formal or informal request about a cease-fire. But it said it rejects the proposal, describing it as an initiative of "kneeling and submission."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat was more optimistic, saying he is hopeful that "we may see some real, real serious signs of a possible cease-fire in the next 12-24 hours."

"I know that some other leaders in Hamas have said we are not closing any doors for any initiative for a cease-fire," he said.

But the Qassam Brigades warned on its Twitter account that "our battle with the enemy will continue to increase in ferocity and intensity."

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said the Israeli acceptance of the Egyptian proposal should be seen as "a first step, not the end."

"We have to be cautious of this cycle of violence which the Palestinian people continue to suffer," she said.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday welcomed Egypt's proposal, saying he hoped it would "restore the calm that we've been seeking."

The stakes are high and climbing.

By Monday, the death toll from about a week of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza had reached 194 with at least 1,400 wounded, according to Palestinian health authorities.

The death toll is now greater than the number of people killed in Gaza during the 2012 conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Israel has said the offensive against Hamas will continue as long as the militant group keeps firing barrages of rockets into Israeli territory.

(CNN)


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