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EU powers suggest opening Rafah Crossing with international monitors

Germany, France and Britain presented on Wednesday an initiative to reopen the Rafah Crossing to the Gaza Strip under international supervision, a German diplomatic source said on Wednesday.

The prime responsibility of the international body would be to supervise the crossing and to stabilise the Strip after four weeks of relentless Israeli strikes.

Israel also demands the disarmament of Hamas and other groups in the Strip.

The EU previously set up a similar body at Rafah in 2005, monitoring the crossing point as part of an accord worked out by Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, but this was dismantled when the Palestinian Authority lost control of the enclave in 2007.

Palestinian and Israeli delegations are now in Cairo to discuss reaching a permanent ceasefire after 30 days of continuous Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip that left around 1,900 Palestinians dead and more than 9,000 wounded.

As Egypt brokers the negotiation efforts, American and UN delegates are attending the indirect discussions, which until now have not lead to any tangible results. However, Israel has agreed on extending the ceasefire for another 72 hours under the same terms.

Palestinian officials, including Hamas’s senior leader Musa abu-Marzouq, reportedly refused to confirm this, saying that no agreement had been reached yet on extending the ceasefire.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the Israeli team in Cairo has agreed on lifting the blockade, opening the border crossings, extending the fishing zone of the Gaza coast and releasing Palestinian prisoners, but refuses establishing sea and air ports and insists on Hamas’s demilitarisation.

The newspaper said that Egypt has been trying to convince the Israeli delegation to postpone discussions on the demilitarisation point in order to enable progress in the ceasefire negotiations.

At the same time, the newspaper reported that: “Egypt insists that any discussion over Rafah take place bilaterally with the Palestinian Authority, a political rival of Hamas, rather than as part of any deal between the Palestinians and Israel to ease the Israeli blockade.”

Egyptian sources said that the efforts at this stage are aimed at consolidating a draft agreement to secure the extension of the ceasefire to allow for humanitarian efforts.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that they are working to reach a permanent quiet in Gaza, noting that the Palestinians and the Israelis both have to commit to it.

Addressing to the UN General Assembly, he said that what happened in Gaza is “shameful” and proves that the best way to end the conflict is through political discussions. He also said that Israel’s targeting of UN premises in Gaza constitutes one of many “war crimes”.

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