The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

November 20, 2012

Hamas leader: Cease-fire with Israel is close

— JERUSALEM (AP) — A diplomatic push to end Israel's nearly weeklong offensive in the Gaza Strip gained momentum Tuesday, with Egypt's president predicting that airstrikes would end within hours and Israel's prime minister saying his country would be a "willing partner" to a cease-fire with the Islamic militant group Hamas.

As international diplomats raced across the region to cement a deal, a senior Hamas official said an agreement was close even as relentless airstrikes and rocket attacks between the two sides continued. President Barack Obama dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Mideast from Cambodia, where she had accompanied him on a visit.

"We haven't struck the deal yet, but we are progressing and it will most likely be tonight," Moussa Abu Marzouk said Tuesday from Cairo, where cease-fire talks were being held.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, perhaps the most important interlocutor between Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory, and the Israelis, said the negotiations between the two sides will yield "positive results" during the coming hours.

In Brussels, a senior official of the European Union's foreign service said a cease-fire would include an end of Israeli airstrikes and targeted killings in Gaza, the opening of Gaza crossing points and an end to rocket attacks on Israel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Violence raged on as the talks continued. An airstrike late Tuesday killed two journalists who work for the Hamas TV station, Al-Aqsa, according to a statement from the channel. The men were in a car hit by an airstrike, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Israel claims that many Hamas journalists are involved in militant activities. Earlier this week it targeted the station's offices, saying it served as a Hamas communications post.

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