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Egypt Says Israel Responds Positively to Truce Proposals


Egyptian officials say Israel has responded positively to Egyptian proposals for a truce in its war with Hamas militants in Gaza, but there were no reports Israel has accepted Egypt's truce plan.

Senior Israeli defense official Amos Gilad held four hours of talks with Egyptian mediators on Thursday in Cairo before returning home to brief Israeli leaders.

Hamas officials met the mediators in Cairo Wednesday, expressing interest in the outlines of Egypt's truce plan but stopping short of accepting it. Hamas wants Israeli troops to withdraw and Gaza's border crossings opened. Israel is calling for an end to Palestinian rocket attacks and weapons smuggling.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets at Israel, saying he has always condemned such attacks as terrorism. He also said Israel must end its offensive in Gaza, where he says civilian suffering has reached an unbearable point.

Mr. Ban made the comments during his continued peace mission in the Mideast. The U.N. chief held talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Also Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly held a special meeting on the situation in Gaza. The assembly's president, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, called on the body to help bring an end to the "death and destruction" and said Israel was violating international law by targeting civilians.

Israeli diplomats disputed the meeting's legality, saying it violated U.N. procedural rules.

Efforts by Qatar to host an emergency summit of the 22-member Arab League on Friday faltered as several Arab states declined to take part. Arab officials say Qatar fell short of the 15-state quorum required to hold a summit.

Nations sympathetic to Hamas, such as Syria, Lebanon and Sudan, backed Qatar's summit plan. But Hamas critics such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt said they would rather wait for a previously-scheduled Arab League economic summit in Kuwait on January 19.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia also called an emergency summit of Gulf countries on Thursday to discuss the situation in Gaza.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote to Saudi King Abdullah on Thursday, accusing some Muslim states of smiling with satisfaction at what he called a genocide in Gaza. Mr. Ahmadinejad urged the king to "break the silence" over Israel's offensive.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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