Gaza

Israel Sends Peace Envoy

A cease-fire in Gaza has moved slowly closer with Israel agreeing to send an envoy to Cairo to negotiate terms. Egypt’s powerful intelligence chief Omar Suleiman is thought to have persuaded Hamas leaders the provisional deal has merit. The deal would install international monitors to ensure arms do not enter Gaza and a permanent end to Hamas terrorists firing rockets into Israel. Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the moderate Palestinian faction Fatah, is flying to Cairo to discuss the peace plan brokered by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. But the Israeli cabinet kept up the pressure on Hamas by approving a “more devastating” phase of its Gaza offensive. Residents of Rafah, south Gaza, were Wednesday night told to leave their homes or face aerial bombardment. Both sides agreed to a three-hour lull in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid to reach victims. There have now been more than a thousand Palestinian victims of the Israeli assault, with more than 680 bodies amassed in hospital morgues.