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Egypt: New Gaza Truce Possible Soon

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says a more durable cease-fire between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza may be reached as soon as next week.

Mr. Mubarak made the comment Monday in Paris following talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The two leaders helped push Israel toward ending its 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip, aimed at stopping rocket fire by Palestinian militants into southern Israel.

Israel says it is considering an Egyptian proposal for an 18-month truce and prisoner swap with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. It would replace shaky January 18 unilateral cease-fires declared by the two sides.

Also Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council he is ready to set up a five-member panel that will probe last month's Israeli attacks on U.N. facilities in Gaza.

Diplomats say the commission will be headed by the former U.N. envoy to Nepal, Ian Martin, who once served as secretary-general of Amnesty International.

Meanwhile, a U.N. aid agency in Gaza said that Hamas has returned humanitarian supplies it seized last week. The agency distributes aid to Gazans, who are trying to rebuild their enclave after Israel's offensive and continuing blockade.

Under the Egyptian truce proposal, Israel and Egypt would open at least two border crossings with Gaza. Hamas has demanded an end to the blockade as part of a truce.

Israeli and Arab media say the plan also calls for Hamas to free an Israeli soldier in return for hundreds of Palestinians held by Israel and a stop to attacks from Gaza against the Jewish state.

Israeli artillery fire in northern Gaza killed a member of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad Monday. Israeli air strikes in Gaza Monday hit two Hamas outposts in retaliation for rockets fired into Israel Sunday.

In a separate development, Hamas accused Palestinian officials in the West Bank of torturing to death a jailed Hamas member. Palestinian authorities say the man committed suicide.

Hamas has been at odds with the Palestinian Authority since it ousted President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction from Gaza in 2007.

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