Egypt renewed its call for a truce to end the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza on Friday and France asked Qatar to use its influence with Palestinians to reach a ceasefire, as NBC opted to return a reporter to the battlefield only days after removing him from its coverage of the fighting. NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin is to be reinstated and sent back into the region, the network said on Friday evening.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, speaking at a news conference in Cairo with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, urged Israel and Hamas to engage in negotiations to end the bloodshed.
Shukri said he had increased his efforts to persuade them to accept an Egyptian proposal. An earlier Cairo initiative was accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas.
“We hope that all sides will support this initiative so that bloodshed stops and this escalation does not get worse. We call on all sides to accept this proposal. We are working to find a framework so that both sides agree,” Shukri said.
Israel intensified its ground offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday. The Israeli land advance followed 10 days of barrages against Gaza from air and sea, and hundreds of rockets fired by Hamas into Israel.
More than 300 Palestinians — most of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials — and two Israelis have been killed.
Fabius told reporters that France had asked Qatar, which has close links with Hamas, to help to reach a ceasefire.
“[Palestinian] President Mahmoud Abbas asked me to use France’s influence with its partners to try to persuade Hamas to accept a ceasefire,” he said. Fabius had met Abbas earlier in the day.
“With regard to Qatar, I told my counterpart our analysis of the situation and he underlined that, in his opinion, Hamas would need points to negotiate and, in particular, a lifting of the blockade on Gaza to accept a ceasefire,” he said.
Egypt, which has brokered ceasefires in previous flare-ups, sees Hamas as a security threat because it is an offshoot of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which was removed from power by the Egyptian army last year.
Shukri has said Hamas could have saved Palestinian lives if it had accepted the first initiative presented by Egypt.
Hamas leaders said they were frozen out of talks and not consulted on the Egyptian initiative, and that it did not address their demands, such as an end to a blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt.
Highlighting the difficulties in getting all sides to agree, Qatar’s foreign minister appeared to rebuff Fabius.
Minister Khaled al-Attiyah received a phone call from Fabius on Friday in which they searched for ways to reach a ceasefire agreement, the state news agency said.
Qatar emerged as a leading supporter of Islamist groups after Arab Spring protests that began in 2011, and sees the standoff as a chance to prove itself as a mediator. It hosts a number of exiled Islamists from across the Middle East, including Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
Fabius was to meet Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi yesterday before traveling to Jordan and Israel to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“What we need to do is to avoid falling into this vicious cycle where we won’t have a ceasefire without talks and vice versa,” Fabius said.
NBC’s decision to pull Mohyeldin off the story, after he witnessed an Israeli air attack that killed four young Palestinians and then posted remarks on Twitter about it, prompted a round of questions, and much criticism of NBC among Internet commenters. Some accused the network of reacting to pressure from the Israeli side in the conflict. Mohyeldin is an Egyptian-American who previously worked for the cable news channel Al Jazeera English.
When it removed Mohyeldin, NBC did not give a reason for its decision other than unspecified security concerns.
On Friday, NBC declined to give any explanation — official or not — for the sudden decision to send Mohyeldin back into Gaza. In a statement, NBC said only that its “deployments were constantly reassessed” in the region.
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