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Entries in Egypt (22)


The Latest from Israel-Gaza-Palestine (11 February): The Israeli Election

marzouk9:45 p.m. Still pursuing a cease-fire agreement with Israel, a senior Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk will hold talks on Thursday with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Thursday.

9:40 p.m. Philip Rizk, the protestor detained by Egyptian authorities after his walk raising money for Gazans, has been released after more than four days of round-the-clock interrogation.

9:30 p.m. A bit of proxy battling over the Palestinian movement in Ankara today. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak represented the Palestinian Authority side of the talks, pressing for confirmation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization as the legitimate umbrella group. Turkey was more muted in its statements but continues to press for greater Hamas participation.

4:25 p.m. The Hamas government in Gaza has ordered international and local aid organisations providing emergency assistance to coordinate relief efforts with it, claiming "supplies brought in from abroad were being sold on the market".

3:55 p.m. Senior Israeli officials have insisted that talks on an Israel-Gaza cease-fire, mediated by Egypt, will continue despite uncertainty over the next Government: ""The current government headed by Ehud Olmert has full authority until a new government is sworn in. You cannot have a power vacuum."

3:45 p.m. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has met Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the "far-right" Israel-Beitenu party, to discuss a possible coalition. Kadima has a projected 29 seats in the Knesset; Israel-Beitenu is a surprise third with 15.

Benjamin Netanyahu, head of Likud (28 seats) has met leaders of the ultra-orthodox Shas party (11 seats).

8:15 a.m. The Palestinian Authority has asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate allegations of war crimes by the Israeli military in the Gaza conflict.

8 a.m. On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon criticised Israel's continued blocking of aid into Gaza. Ban said one million Gazans needed relief supplies, but Tel Aviv was only allowing one crossing to open with aid for about 30,000 people.

Ban also confirmed that a survey team would be investigating Israeli attacks on UN facilities during the Gaza conflict.

Morning Update (6 a.m. GMT; 8 a.m. Israel/Palestine): Now the real politics begins in Israel.

Little change overnight in the forecast of results. Out of 120 seats in the Knesset, Kadima (Tzipi Livni) is projected to take 28 and Likud (Benjamin Netanyahu) 27. Each of the two leading parties has claimed a mandate to govern, but each faces the reality of trying to forge a coaliation with the participation of other parties.

Of those parties, the "far-right" Israel-Beitenu of Avigdor Lieberman has emerged in third place with 15 projected seats, putting Labor --- the founding party of Israeli politics --- into fourth with 13.

With little resolved in Tel Aviv, perhaps the most significant reaction has come from Hamas. Spokesman Osama Hamdan has claimed that, with Israeli politics moving "to the right", the new Government will be led by "extremists". No surprise there, but Hamdan's follow-up is politically notable: he says the US Government's intervention is now essential for any political resolution.

The Latest on Israel-Gaza-Palestine (10 February)

10 p.m. The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz is reporting that Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud and Avigdor Lieberman of Israeli-Beitenu have had a phone conversation about a possible coalition government.

9:40 p.m. A Qassam rocket has landed in the southern Negev in Israel.

8 p.m. Voting closes in Israeli election. First exit polls have Kadima (party of Tzipi Livni) at 30 seats; Likud (party of Benjamin Netanyahu) 28; "far-right" Israel-Beitenu (Avigdor Lieberman) 15. Labor (Ehud Barak) on course for worst performance ever.

As there are 120 seats in Knesset, there will have to be a coalition with at least 61 members to form a secure Government. That in turn means that even a Kadima-Likud coalition is not sure of a majority in the new parliament.

11:10 a.m. The New York Times has an article on the detention of student Philip Rizk by Egyptian authorities after his walk with friends to raise money for Gazans.

11 a.m. Hamas official Osama Hamdan says further manoeuvres for an agreement with Israel on Gaza will now depend on  the outcome of today's Israeli election: ""If [Likud leader Benjamin] Netanyahu wins, I don't think that the current government will conclude an agreement. If the current government wins, they could reach an agreement."

10:45 a.m. I'm Still Here. Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, trying to assert his leadership as Hamas negotiates an agreement with Israel, has said he is ready to talk to Tel Aviv if "the new Israeli government a halt to new settlements".

Morning Update (9 a.m. GMT; 11 a.m. Israel/Palestine): The headline story is today's Israeli elections, which the media are now projecting as "too close to call" between the Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Kadima Party of Tzipi Livni for the largest number of seats. The equally important --- indeed, more important --- issue will be the make-up of the inevitable coalition that has to be formed to govern Israel.

Meanwhile, former United Nations envoy Ian Martin will head a five-member panel investigating last month's Israeli attacks on UN facilities in Gaza.

The Latest from Israel-Gaza-Palestine (9 February)

Evening Update (11:30 p.m.): Tonight brings another Hamas report that gaps between Israel and the Gazan leadership are narrowing and a cease-fire agreement could be arranged within days. The specifics on border crossings and a prisoner swap are still unclear, although it is now reported that there would be a 300-meter "buffer zone" on either side of the border from which "militants" would be excluded.

6:45 p.m. Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk has told The Daily Telegraph that the situation in Gaza "can only be dealt with by period of calm between the two sides". According to the Telegraph, Hamas is offering Israel a Tahdia, a period of non-aggression, while the cease-fire of a Hudna, or ceasefire, awaits an agreement in which Israel withdraws from Palestinian territory.

5:55 p.m. Hamas has returned United Nations stocks of food and blankets that it had seized in two raids last week. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency will now resume deliveries throughout Gaza.

Afternoon Update (4:45 p.m.): A Meeting to Interpret. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Monday in Paris, with the main topic Cairo's brokering of discussing between Hamas and Israel. Mubarak kept details close to his chest, however, saying, "We discussed the date at which a return to calm could come. Perhaps starting next week."

The Palestinian organisation Popular Resistance Committees, which coordinated with Hamas in the seizure of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, said Monday that there had been no progress on a prisoner swap involving their captive.

CNN offers an update on this morning's Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

9 a.m. An Israeli tank shell has killed a man in northern Gaza, following Israeli airstrikes on two targets in the south, including a Hamas security compound.

Morning Update: Will there be an Israel-Gaza agreement put to Tel Aviv today? The Egyptian newspaper al-Gomhouria reports that a Hamas delegation including top official Mahmoud az-Zahar will return to Cairo today, bringing a "positive answer" to proposals discussed over the weekend. The paper reports that agreement on a cease-fire of at least 12 months could be arranged in the next 48 hours.

Dose of Cold Reality Statement of the Day: Obama Style v. Middle East Substance

Egyptian author Awaa al Aswany in today's New York Times:

I...enlisted the help of my two teenage daughters, May and Nada, to guide me through the world of Egyptian blogs, where young Egyptian men and women can express themselves with relative freedom. There I found a combination of glowing enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, a comparison between the democratic system in America and the tyranny in Egypt, the expectation of a fairer American policy in the Middle East, and then severe disappointment after Mr. Obama’s failure to intercede in Gaza. I thus concluded that no matter how many envoys, speeches or interviews Mr. Obama offers to us, he will not win the hearts and minds of Egyptians until he takes up the injustice in the Middle East. I imagine the same holds true for much of the greater Muslim world.


The Latest on Israel-Gaza-Palestine (8 February)

Related Post: Dose of Cold Reality Statement of the Day - Obama Style v. Middle East Substance

6:30 p.m.: An Israeli Cabinet minister, Rafi Eitan, has forecast that a prisoner swap with Hamas could be completed before the next Israeli Government takes office: "There's a strong probability that all comprehensive moves with Hamas ... will happen during the current prime minister's term, as from experience we know it takes around six weeks for them to put together a new government."

On the Palestinian side, a source says, "There are positive signals that an announcement on a deal is near, unless Israel backs off at the last minute."

Afternoon Update (4:30 p.m. GMT; 6:30 p.m. Israel/Palestine): Aid agencies are expressing frustration at the inability to get supplies into Gaza. United Nations official Chris Gunness said, "For us to move ahead with rehabilitation and repairs, we must get building materials into Gaza. Two hundred and twenty-one schools for 200,000 children only have 40 percent of their books because we can't get paper and glue into Gaza."

More than 21,000 homes are still destroyed or badly damaged.

A rocket from Gaza landed near Ashkelon in southern Israel.

7:50 a.m. We're waiting for news out of Cairo, where a high-level Hamas delegation including Mahmoud az-Zahar is in talks that could move toward a proposed Israel-Gaza settlement. The main sticking point seems to be the opening and control of border crossings.

Diplomats have said that the working proposal is for an 18-month cease-fire, with a prisoner exchange (which presumably included kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit), and opening of at least two crossings. The deal would be "phased", with crossings gradually opened as the cease-fire held and prisoner exchange proceeded.

7:45 a.m. The Israeli navy shelled the northern and western coasts of Gaza this morning, damaging dozens of fishing boats. A rocket has landed in a kibbutz in southern Israel.

7:35 a.m. The "Reconciliation" Battle Continues. In Turkey yesterday, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas called for Fatah and Hamas to create a consensus government. He then rejected Hamas' call for a new umbrella group to replace the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Which, in effect, means that Abbas has thrown "reconciliation" back to Hamas: accept the PLO framework or there will be no consensus.

Morning Update (7:30 a.m. GMT; 9:30 a.m. Israel/Palestine): In a separate entry, we've had a look at US Vice President Joe Biden's speech in Munich yesterday. With media attention focused on the "new tone" of the Obama Administration and specific issues such as Afghanistan, Russia, and Iran, almost no one noticed Biden's passage on Israel, Gaza, and Palestine.

Here's the key phrase: "We must consolidate the cease-fire in Gaza by working with Egypt and others to stop smuggling, and developing an international relief and reconstruction effort that strengthens the Palestinian Authority, and not Hamas." So, six weeks, after the Israeli attacks failed to get regime change in Gaza, it seems that the Obama Administration is still supporting options that undermine the Gazan leadership, rather than getting arrangements that help the Gazan people.