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Nov 20, 2012 Comments Off Pat Dollard

CAIRO, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said on Tuesday that “Israeli aggression” against Gaza would end later in the day, the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.

“President Mohamed Morsi announced that the farce of Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip will end on Tuesday,” MENA said, quoting public remarks made by the country’s head of state after the funeral of his sister.

“The efforts to conclude a truce between the Palestinian and Israeli sides will produce positive results in the next few hours,” he was quoted as saying. Egypt has been trying to mediate a truce to end the conflict.

Morsi was speaking in Zagazig, a town north of Cairo in the Nile Delta. The MENA story did not provide a direct quote.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil told Reuters on Monday a ceasefire could be close.

Israel launched an air campaign on Wednesday with the declared goal of deterring Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, from firing rockets at its southern communities.

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi says Israel’s ‘‘aggression’’ against Gaza will end Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig, Morsi did not provide any evidence to support his prediction that an end to Israel’s weeklong offensive against Gaza is imminent. He only said negotiations between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers will yield ‘‘positive results’’ during the coming hours without elaborating.

His prediction in comments carried on Egypt’s official MENA news agency comes as international diplomatic efforts to end the fighting picked up pace with the scheduled arrival in the region later Tuesday of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Excerpted from CTV News:

Without providing any details, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi predicted an end to Israel’s “aggression” Tuesday.

Egypt’s official MENA news agency reports that Morsi told journalists in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig negotiations between Israeli and Hamas officials will yield “positive results” in the coming hours.

Morsi’s comments come ahead of the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is now headed to the region after leaving Cambodia where she had been accompanying President Barack Obama on a three-day, three-country tour.

Clinton is expected to arrive in Israel Tuesday evening, for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and Egyptian leaders in Cairo.

Her arrival is one example of the growing international diplomatic pressure being exerted on the two sides, to end the week-long barrage of rocket and missiles between Gaza and southern Israel.

The barrage continued in earnest Tuesday, however, with a Palestinian rocket landing harmlessly in an open area on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The incident, which set off air-raid sirens throughout the city, marked one of the longest-range rocket attacks fired from the Gaza Strip so far.

Located nearly 80 kilometres from Gaza, an attack on Jerusalem is considered especially audacious -– both due to distance and religious symbolism.

Monitoring developments from Jerusalem, CTV’s Janis Mackey Frayer said Clinton’s entering the fray may be a sign of progress.

“If the U.S. is wading in to put its stamp on any ceasefire agreement, then a deal might be close,” she told CTV’s Canada AM Tuesday.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is already in Cairo, drawn to the region, he said, because of the “alarming situation.”

“This must stop, immediate steps are needed to avoid further escalation, including a ground operation,” Ban said. “Both sides must hold fire immediately … Further escalation of the situation could put the entire region at risk.”

In his own comments Tuesday, Netanyahu said he prefers a diplomatic solution.

“But if the fire continues, we will be forced to take broader measures and will not hesitate to do so,” the Israeli PM said in a statement after discussing the conflict with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Turkey’s foreign minister was headed to Gaza on a separate truce mission Tuesday, after signalling he had been in contact with Israel on the matter.

“We would be involved in all kinds of efforts if it amounted to saving the life of a single brother from Gaza,” Ahmet Davutoglu said. “We are determined to keep all direct or indirect channels (of dialogue) open.”

Because the United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization, Clinton and other American officials are prohibited from direct contact with its members. Instead, she must rely on third parties — principally Egypt, Turkey and also Qatar — for communication.

The difficulty of bringing the two sides to an agreement is compounded, Mackey Frayer said, given their respective demands and the broader political context.

On the one hand, Israel wants some guarantee of security for the 3.5 million Israelis now within range of rockets fired from Gaza. That means an end to the daily barrage, and a means to prevent rearming.

Hamas, on the other hand, wants Israel to lift tight restrictions on trade and movement to and from the territory. Israel has not budged on the blockade since it was imposed after Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.

But Hamas is no longer in the politically isolated position it was then, given the burgeoning support from Qatar and Turkey, and the rise to power of the ideologically aligned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia.

If the two sides can’t come to terms, and the tens of thousands of Israeli reservists called up to camps along the Gaza border are ordered into the territory, “there could be more serious repercussions throughout the region,” Mackey Frayer said.

The conflicted intensified last week, when Israel responded to a resurgence of rockets fired from Gaza with missile strikes of its own, one of which killed the Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari.

After initially targeting rocket launchers and ammunition stores, over the weekend Israel began training its airstrikes on the homes of suspected Hamas activists.

After seven days and nearly 1,5000 airstrikes, the Palestinian death toll is at 115, including 54 civilians. Gaza health officials say of the 840 wounded, 225 are children.

In Israel, three civilians have been killed and dozens wounded by the more than 1,000 rockets fired from Gaza since the conflict intensified last week.