Egypt presented a ceasefire plan today to end a week of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has left at least 185 Palestinians dead, and both sides seem to be considering the proposal. The late-night offer by Egypt marked the first sign of a breakthrough in international efforts to end the conflict. Hamas' top leader in Gaza confirmed there was "diplomatic movement," but CNN reports that a Hamas spokesman said they never received the proposal and called it "a joke." Nonetheless, Israel's policy-making Security Cabinet was set to discuss the proposal early tomorrow. Arab foreign ministers discussed the plan tonight at an emergency meeting in Cairo, and US Secretary of State John Kerry was expected in the region tomorrow.
Israeli officials have said the goal of the military campaign is to restore quiet to Israel's south, which has absorbed hundreds of rocket strikes, and that any ceasefire would have to include guarantees of an extended period of calm. Hamas officials say they will not accept "calm for calm." The group is demanding an easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has ground Gaza's economy to a standstill and that Israel release dozens of prisoners who were arrested in a recent West Bank crackdown. Egypt's Foreign Ministry announced its three-step plan starting with a temporary ceasefire to go into effect within 12 hours of "unconditional acceptance" by the two sides. That would be followed by the opening of Gaza's border crossings and talks in Cairo between the sides within two days, according to the statement. Click for more.