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September 21, 2017

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Egypt spearheads efforts for open-ended Gaza cease-fire

CAIRO--Egypt on Saturday called for an open-ended cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, urging the Palestinians and Israel to return to indirect talks.

The call from the foreign ministry came shortly after Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev had no immediate comment on the Egyptian call.

A temporary cease-fire collapsed earlier this week, bringing the Egyptian-brokered talks to a halt. More than 2,090 Palestinians, including close to 500 children, have been killed since the Gaza war began on July 8.

Hamas Signs ICC Bid

Meanwhile, the Islamic militant group Hamas — the war's main Palestinian participant — has signed a pledge to back any Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court. Palestinian acceptance of the court's jurisdiction could expose Israel — as well as Hamas — to war crimes investigations.

Hamas' written consent could further increase domestic pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to turn to the court. Such pressure has been mounting since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on July 8, in which more than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza.

A hesitant Abbas has debated for months whether to join the international court, a step that could transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile, strain his ties with the United States and deprive his government of badly needed Western financial support.

Last month, Abbas said he would not make a move without the written consent of all Palestinian factions. He obtained such support from all groups represented in the Palestine Liberation Organization, while Hamas, not a PLO member, said it would study the idea.

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