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Arab League Sends Delegation To Gaza

Arab League chief Nabil El-Araby will lead a delegation of Arab ministers to Gaza
Arab ministers have met in Cairo, agreeing to send a delegation to Gaza led by Arab League chief Nabil El-Araby. The group should be there no later than November 19 and possibly as soon as November 18.

El-Araby told reporters after the meeting, "What was said during the meeting, concerning the delegation which will visit Gaza, is that any minister who wishes to join the delegation should let the League know as soon as possible."

El-Araby said the delegation would "be comprised of the head of the Arab summit, which is Iraq, the head of the ministerial rotation, which is the Lebanese Foreign minister, and the secretary-general; in addition to any other countries wishing to join."

The Arab League chief said once it was known how many countries would send ministers, "We will then decide when we will travel, it could be in one or two days, it has not yet been decided."

The Arab ministers expressed strong support for Palestinians in Gaza and condemnation of Israeli attacks against Hamas militants and facilities that have been occurring in Gaza since November 14.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said Arab countries need to demonstrate strong diplomatic resolve to back their moral support for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Mansour recommended "the freezing of all means of communication between the Israeli enemy and any Arab country." Mansour called "on Arab countries which have diplomatic relations with Israel to take steps at the diplomatic level, withdrawing their ambassadors and cutting all diplomatic ties and cancelling any agreements."

The decision to send the delegation to Gaza came as Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi was meeting with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Egypt and Turkey are among the few Islamic countries that have diplomatic ties with Israel.

Morsi told a news conference in Cairo, "There are now intensive efforts through communication channels with the Palestinian side and with the Israeli side, and there are now some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon between the two sides."

The Egyptian president cautioned, "We have no guarantees yet, but what I would like to indicate and reconfirm is that war, and this type of aggression and the siege of Gaza, none of this will ever lead to peace or stability for the people of the region."

Hamas militants and Israel's military have been engaged in fierce combat since November 14 when Israel responded to days of Hamas rocket-fire into Israel by launching airstrikes, one of which killed a Hamas military commander.

Israeli warplanes destroyed the headquarters of Hamas's prime minister and targeted suspected smuggling tunnels in raids early November 17.

Israel's cabinet approved the call-up of an additional 75,000 army reservists late on November 16.

Troops were massing along the border with Gaza, raising the possibility that an Israeli ground operation into Gaza could be coming soon.

Israeli Defense Force (IDF) spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said on November 17 that the attacks appeared to be having some effect. "Today we see many of Hamas senior militant leaders in hiding...but in civilian places, such as mosques, and hospitals, this all brings us to the assumption that Hamas is under great pressure as a result of the IDF targeting," she said.

Leibovich also reiterated Israel's position that the strikes were a response to Hamas firing rockets into Israel.

"We are determined to continue with this operation, until we bring some peace and quiet and normality to three million Israelis which are currently under immediate rocket danger," she said.

Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since November 14, including rockets that targeted Tel Aviv and, for the first time in decades, Jerusalem.

Both cities were previously beyond the range of Hamas rockets, a sign Hamas has obtained more sophisticated rockets many suspect came from Iran and possibly Libya, where a large amount of weapons remain unaccounted for since rebels ousted and killed former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

In the four days since fighting started, some 45 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed.
With reporting from Reuters, AFP, APand dpa