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Hamas official in Cairo for Gaza truce talks

A Hamas official was to hold talks in Cairo on Wednesday on Egyptian efforts to end the deadly conflict between his Gaza-based Islamist movement and Israel, the Palestinians said.

CAIRO: A Hamas official was to hold talks in Cairo on Wednesday on Egyptian efforts to end the deadly conflict between his Gaza-based Islamist movement and Israel, the Palestinians said. Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal which Egypt put forward this week, complaining it had not been a party to the discussions.

"A meeting will be held this afternoon between an official from Hamas and a representative of the Egyptian leadership," said Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Ahmad said he hoped the talks in Cairo would "crystalize a definite formula for an Egyptian initiative" or clarify its plan, which had proposed an end to hostilities from 0600 GMT on Tuesday.

Israel initially accepted the Egyptian initiative, but later intensified its punishing air strikes aimed at stamping out rocket fire by Gaza militants following Hamas's rejection.

Ahmad's remarks came as Middle East peace Quartet envoy Tony Blair held talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, on his second visit to Cairo in a week to discuss the Gaza conflict in which more than 200 Palestinians have been killed since July 8.

Blair said Egypt's initiative was designed "to allow all the issues that are at the heart of this problem .. to be dealt with in a thorough and proper way... There are demands by Hamas in respect of Gaza and there are demands by Israel in respect of security," he said.

"But the purpose of this initiative is to allow people to come and discuss those issues, but in the meantime for the violence to stop and for the lives of the innocent to be saved," Blair said at a joint news conference with Shoukri.

Shoukri said Egypt's proposal aimed at "stopping military actions in order to address the situation in Gaza in the medium and long terms, and to give an opportunity to resume the peace process".

Later on Wednesday, Abbas was also due to arrive in the Egyptian capital for talks on a possible ceasefire.

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