Palestinian president in Cairo for Gaza talks
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is due to meet Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak Monday for a new round of talks on establishing a long-term ceasefire in Gaza, reported dpa.
His visit comes amid reports of a significant progress in negotiations and Israeli threats of a "fierce and disproportionate" response to continued rocket fire on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Abbas had been scheduled to travel to the Czech Republic, but postponed that trip at the last minute because of a "breakthrough" in Egyptian-mediated talks, Egyptian and Palestinian news agencies quoted Abbas spokesman Nabil Shaath as saying Sunday.
Shaath did not elaborate, but on Sunday evening the Arabic satellite news channel al-Arabiya reported that Hamas had accepted an Egyptian plan for a truce. A Hamas delegation is also expected in Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials on Monday.
Israel has stressed that it is not negotiating with Hamas, but with Egypt and the international community. Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip have continued trading fire since Israel and Hamas declared unilateral ceasefires on January 18.
On Sunday night, Israeli warplanes bombed a corridor along the Egyptian-Gazan border and a Hamas-run police station. Earlier on Sunday, militants in Gaza fired eight makeshift rockets into southern Israel.
Speaking at a weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised a "fierce and disproportionate response" to Hamas rocket attacks.
"We will act according to new rules which will ensure that we are not dragged into an endless shooting war along the southern border," Olmert said.
Egypt has been mediating talks between the Israelis and Palestinians on one hand, and rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah on the other.
In recent days, representatives of Hamas and Fatah have exchanged bitter recriminations over who should represent the Palestinian people.
Visiting a Cairo hospital where Palestinians wounded in the fighting were being treated Sunday, Abbas accused Hamas of "taking risks with the blood of Palestinians, with their fate, and dreams and aspirations for an independent Palestinian state."
Hamas has called for a new Palestinian coalition to replace the Palestine Liberation Organisation, saying that it no longer represents the Palestinian people.
Speaking to reporters in Cairo on Sunday, Abbas swore there would be "no dialogue with those who reject the Palestine Liberation Organisation."