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Israel, Egypt hold talks for ‘permanent ceasefire’ in Gaza

CAIRO, Egypt: Egypt’s foreign minister, in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, has stressed the need to build on a truce between Israel and Hamas by stopping all practices that lead to escalation.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed in his meeting with Gabi Ashkenazi in Cairo on Sunday “the need to take into account the special sensitivity associated with East Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and all Islamic and Christian holy sites”, the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Tensions escalated last month after Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at Muslim worshippers in the final days of the holy month of Ramadan.

After issuing an ultimatum demanding Israel cease its attacks on the mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets into Israel. Israel followed with an offensive that killed almost 250 Palestinians.

Egypt helped broker the May 21 ceasefire to halt the worst fighting in years between Israel and Hamas, the group that governs Gaza, and is working with the United States and regional partners to expand it into a more permanent ceasefire.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Palestinian officials have put reconstruction costs from Israeli attacks in Gaza at tens of millions of dollars.

Kamel also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday and handed him a message from Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi affirming Egyptian support to Palestinians and Abbas, state news agency MENA said.

MENA added that Cairo would host talks among Palestinian factions to achieve unity between those in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied areas of the occupied West Bank.

Discussions with Israeli officials have touched on a set of measures that would allow materials, electricity and fuel into the territory, as well as the possible expansion of maritime space allowed for Gaza fishermen, an unnamed Egyptian official was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

“The role of the Palestinian Authority is central in the talks,” the official said. “Egypt is seeking to have it deeply involved in the reconstruction process.”

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