President Abel Fattah al-Sisi met with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo on Thursday afternoon to push forward with cease-fire talks, reported the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram. Hours later, Israel announced the launch of its ground operation in the Gaza Strip.
According to statements published in Al-Ahram, Sisi and Abbas both agreed suffering in the embattled Palestinian enclave must be alleviated, and underlined the need to end the bloodshed.
Efforts must be exerted to prevent the targeting of civilians on the borders, and the freedom of mobility of people and cargo must be guaranteed, the respective presidents said.
Abbas further called for international protection for the Palestinian people, paving the way for peace based on a two-state solution — a proposal Sisi was onboard with, according to Al-Ahram.
Sisi and Abbas are expected to call for a donors’ conference to rebuild Gaza in the aftermath of a still ongoing Israeli airstrike operation, reported the state newspaper.
Meanwhile, on Thursday night, the Israel Defense Forces announced on their Twitter account that they are launching a ground operation in the Gaza Strip.
The IDF said their goal is to target Hamas’ tunnels “that enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks.”
Egypt has opened and closed the Rafah border crossing intermittently since the offensive began 10 days ago. The Sisi administration has faced mounting criticism for its recalcitrance in keeping the border open to allow Palestinians entry for medical treatment. Rafah is the only crossing in or out of Gaza.
The Gaza Health Ministry reported 229 Palestinian deaths by Thursday night, and at least 1,800 injured. Most of the deaths were civilians, including at least 25 women and 40 children — seven children were killed on Thursday alone. One Israeli life has been claimed so far.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb paid a visit to injured Palestinians being treated at Al-Zaitoun Hospital in Cairo, vowing to maintain Egypt’s support for the Palestinians.
Mehleb said Egypt is committed to reaching a cease-fire through an initiative proposed by Sisi.
The initiative was announced by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Monday, calling on both Israel and Palestinian factions to halt all attacks — the former in the form of sea, land and air attacks, and the latter in the former of border attacks and rockets targeting citizens.
However, the Palestinian Hamas group purportedly rejected the initiative, dismissing it as a call for submission, the armed wing of the group said in statements the next day.
Israeli launched the offensive on Gaza on June 27, when Hamas began to fire primitive rockets into Israeli territory.