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Despite breaking news reported earlier by CNN from reports from Reuters (Links and quotes in UPDATE 1) that Egypt has brokered a cease fire between Israel and Hamas, the fighting continues, and Mark Regev, (the spelling of his name I did not catch), a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says such an agreement is being negotiated but not yet concluded. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is scheduled to arrive in the Middle East today, to assist in negotiations.  

In an interview now broadcasting live on CNN, with Wolf Blitzer, Hanan Ashrawi, member of the PLO Executive Committee is confirming that a cease fire agreement has been reached and will be announce in a few hours, but that she does not know the details, yet.  

In two press conferences, this morning from by Cairo, and then Jerusalem, U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon calls for ceasefire as Israel threatens ground operation in Gaza, acknowledging Israel's "legitimate security concerns" but also insisting that a military ground incursion into Gaza would only make the situation worse.

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo after talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, Mr Ban said he supported Egyptian-led efforts to bring an end to the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Hamas-run territory.

"All parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians. That is true of those bearing arms, and it is true of those giving the orders to use them. My message is clear: all sides must halt fire immediately. Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk," he said.
Despite international efforts to secure a ceasefire, Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli air strikes continued for a seventh day.

Some 110 Palestinians have died in a week of fighting, the majority of them civilians, including 27 children. Three Israelis died last week when a Gaza missile struck their house.

Reports of much activity throughout the Middle East continues below the squiggle.

This morning, Joel Gulhane reported in the Egypt Daily News that  UN secretary general in Cairo for talks on Gaza, where U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced plans to meat with leaders of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to attempt to end the violence in Gaza.  

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon arrived in Cairo on Monday night. He met with League of Arab States (LAS) Secretary General Nabil El-Araby on Tuesday morning to discuss the situation in Gaza and Syria.

Ban called for all parties to “respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians.” He added, “that is true of those bearing arms and it is true of those giving the order to use them.”

“Once again families and children are dying as a result of senseless violence, once again Palestinians and Israelis live in the fear of the next strike,” said Ban. He emphasised the necessity “to avoid further escalation including a ground operation which will only result in further tragedy.”

Both El Araby and Ban called for a ceasefire between the two sides. Ban said “my message is clear; all sides must halt fire immediately. Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk.”

During their meeting the two men also discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria. Both stressed the need to support the efforts of joint UN and LAS special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in his mission to find a solution to the Syrian conflict.

At the end of the press conference El Araby and Ban did not take any questions from the media.

Ban also met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Amr to discuss the situation in Gaza. Foreign ministry spokesperson Amr Roshdy said Amr “stressed Israel’s responsibility for the deterioration of the situation in the region.”

A UN spokesperson confirmed that Ban travelled to Jerusalem and met with Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday afternoon.

Hillary Clinton will arrive in the Middle East tomorrow to promote a similar message.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is travelling from Cambodia to the Middle East region to weigh in on the situation in Gaza. According to a press statement by Victoria Nuland, a spokesperson for the Department of State, “she will meet with regional leaders, starting with our Israeli partners.”

A source at the US embassy in Cairo hinted that Clinton will also visit the Egyptian capital tomorrow. When asked to confirm the source said “it appears that way.”

During her visit Clinton “will emphasise  the United States’ interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel’s security and regional stability; that can lead to improved conditions for the civilian residents of Gaza,” according to the statement.

Clinton Heads to Middle East Amid Gaza Crisis

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headed to the Middle East with the hope that she can help bring an end to the escalating violence that has gripped the region for the last week.

Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem later tonight to meet with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. Clinton will also meet with Palestinian officials in Ramallah before heading to Cairo to meet with leaders in Egypt.

A senior Israeli government official told ABC News that Netanyahu has decided to hold off on a ground invasion for a "limited time" in favor of a diplomatic solution.

Overnight, Israeli jets hit more than 100 targets, killing five people. Gaza militants blasted more than 60 rockets in retaliation, with one of them hitting a bus in southern Israel.

CTPost reports, Israel 'willing partner' in potential cease-fire

In a joint press conference with the Secretary General, Prime Minister Netanyahu denounced Hamas rocket  attacks on Israeli civilians, but also said Israel would be a "willing partner" for peace.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister says Israel would be a "willing partner" in a cease-fire with Gaza's ruling militant group Hamas. ...

Netanyahu says that "if a long-term solution can be put in place by diplomatic means, Israel will be a willing partner." ...

Ban has condemned the rocket attacks but urged Israel to show "maximum restraint." He also has offered his services to help broker a truce.

8:52 AM PT: Here is the report of a cease fire issues by Reuters referred to by Wolf Blitzer on CNN in the lead article above.

Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller of Reuters report Gaza truce agreed, Hamas says, to take effect in hours



GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in the Gaza conflict will go into effect later on Tuesday, a Hamas official said.

There was no immediate Israeli comment. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier he was open to a long-term deal to halt Palestinian rocket attacks on his country.

"An agreement for calm has been reached. It will be declared at 9 o'clock (1900 GMT) and go into effect at midnight (2200 GMT)," Hamas official Ayman Taha told Reuters from Cairo, where efforts have been under way to end seven days of hostilities.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was heading to the region from Asia and was expected in Jerusalem late on Tuesday for talks with Netanyahu on Wednesday.

Earlier, Egypt's state media quoted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi as announcing "that the farce of Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip will end on Tuesday"

Mursi said, according to the reports, that "efforts to conclude a truce between the Palestinian and Israeli sides will produce positive results in the next few hours".

8:55 AM PT: At 11:53 A.M. EST CNN reports that Israel want to see a 24 hour period of cessation of hostilities before it finally agrees to a longer-term cease period.  So it appears that there may be two possible cease fire, "a pre-cease fire, 24 hours of calm, then a signing of a longer-term cease fire.

CNN notes that both would mean Israel may have decided against launching the ground invasion of Gaza many felt was imminent.

9:11 AM PT: At 12:06 CNN updates that the differences in reports are a  "cease fire" and a "cease fire agreement."

Israel want to see a "24 hour period of calm", which Egypt is describing as a "cease fire."  After which, Israel may be willing to sign an official "cease fire agreement."

I also suspect, based on history, that Israel may also wish to wait until discussion with Secretary of State HIllary Clinton tonight, to see what she may have "to add."  Clinton will meet with Egyptian official tomorrow morning.

CNN has just added that at 9:00 pm Cairo time, (in two hours),  a representative of Hamas and Egypt will announce what in Arabic is technically, a "calming down" of violence, which an official end of official military operations.  

9:51 AM PT: Laura Meckler of the WSJ reports Hamas Says Cease-Fire Deal 'Close'; Clinton Heads to Region

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to the Middle East in an effort to stem the escalation of violence in the region, the White House said, amid reports that Israel and Hamas were nearing a deal for a cease-fire.

A senior Hamas official said Tuesday that the group, the ruling party of the Gaza Strip, is close to a cease-fire deal with Israel but that it hasn't been reached yet, according to the Associated Press. That followed reports on some news services that a deal had already been reached, citing a Hamas official.

A cease-fire deal with Gaza militants hasn't been finalised and the "ball is still in play", Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told CNN on Tuesday, according to Reuters. "Until you're there, you're not there," he said.

The decision to send Mrs. Clinton to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo to meet with regional leaders was made in a conversation with President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the pair are attending meetings with leaders of Southeast Asian nations. She leaves later Tuesday from Cambodia.

9:51 AM PT: CNN just announced the President Obama was up all last night on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Egyptian president, and other Middle Eastern leaders trying to advance this cease fire agreement and sent SoS HIllary Clinton to expedite it.  She has her first meeting with the Israeli's tonight.

9:56 AM PT: Julie Pace, of the Associated Press reports Obama speaks to Egyptian president on Gaza crisis

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AP) — The White House says President Barack Obama has again spoken to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi as he seeks to end nearly a week of warfare between Israel and Hamas.

Obama spoke to Morsi for the third time in 24 hours as he was returning home Tuesday from a diplomatic tour of Asia. Deputy National Security adviser Benjamin Rhodes said Obama wanted to talk to Morsi before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s expected arrival in Israel to underscore the importance of working to halt the violence.

Rhodes said Obama commended Morsi’s efforts to ease tensions and stressed the important role Egypt can play in regional security.


10:06 AM PT: Israel, Gaza Ceasefire Agreed To, Hamas Official Says, Israel Denies,by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller.

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 20 (Reuters) - A Hamas official said on Tuesday Egypt had brokered a Gaza ceasefire deal that would go into effect within hours, but a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "we're not there yet".

"An agreement for calm has been reached. It will be declared at 9 o'clock (1900 GMT) and go into effect at midnight (2200 GMT)," Hamas official Ayman Taha told Reuters from Cairo, where intensive efforts have been under way to end seven days of fighting.

Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told Reuters the announcement was premature and Israeli military operations in Gaza, territory run by Hamas Islamists, would continue in parallel with diplomacy.

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