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Kerry proposes one-week cease-fire in Gaza

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Secretary of State John Kerry proposed that Israel and Hamas stop fighting for one week as part of a plan to end the current round of violence in the Gaza Strip.

The cease-fire would go into effect Sunday as the first of two stages, an anonymous official involved in the negotiations told the New York Times Friday.

As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending.

Israel Radio reported Friday that the Cabinet was considering the offer. It also said that Kerry was convening a meeting in Paris of a number of countries that would help broker the truce, including Turkey and Qatar, which maintain ties with Hamas. The United States regards Hamas as a terrorist group and will not deal directly with it.

A U.S. official would not describe details of the plan to JTA, but suggested that U.S. efforts to end the fighting were not open-ended.

“Look, we said from the beginning that this was not going to be easy,” the official said in an email, asking to remain anonymous in order to speak freely. “This is a very complicated situation with multiple regional players and difficult strategic issues involved. We continue to work together with our partners to achieve a ceasefire as quickly as possible, but obviously the secretary cannot remain out there indefinitely.”

Israeli ministers appeared divided about the proposal. Yaakov Peri, the science minister, told Israel Radio that he understood that the deal would allow Israel troops to continue destroying tunnels in the Gaza Strip, and that he favored it.

“The conditions the secretary of state brings are acceptable, that we stay in the area and continue with the tunnel work,” he said.

Yitzhak Aharonovich, the internal security minister, said he was concerned that the truce would inhibit the army’s mission. “The goal is to expose all the tunnels, not to limit the IDF,” he said.

It was not clear if the final plan proposed by Kerry would be endorsed by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.

Hamas’ political leader, Khaled Meshal, has stated that he would not accept an enduring cease-fire until his demands are met, including the lifting of an economic blockade on Gaza.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 after repeated rocket launches into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The operation’s main objective, as described by IDF spokespeople, was to destroy Hamas’ array of tunnels leading into Israel and to limit its ability to launch rockets. More than 820 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed so far as have 36 Israelis, including three civilians.

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