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Egypt's Morsi says Israeli strikes on Gaza will end today

As mediators push Israel and Hamas to agree a cease-fire in Gaza, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has said that Israeli "aggression" will soon be over.

Israel airstrikes gaza rockets day six nov 19 2012 10Enlarge
Israeli soldiers prepare weapons in a deployment area on November 19, 2012 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. The death toll has risen to at least 100 killed in the air strikes, according to hospital officials, on day six since the launch of operation 'Pillar of Defense.' (Lior Mizrahi/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt's president, Mohammed Morsi, has said that he expects Israeli air strikes on Gaza to end today.

As mediators gather in Cairo in a bid to broker a halt to seven days of conflict, Morsi was quoted as telling reporters:

"The farce of the Israeli aggression will end today, Tuesday, and the efforts to reach a ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israelis will produce positive results within a few hours."

He didn't say what his prediction was based on, according to the Associated Press.

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate cease-fire as he joined the peace talks earlier today. Diplomats from the Arab League and Germany are also in the region, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on her way to meetings in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Cairo.

The AP said Clinton's imminent arrival was a sign that international diplomatic efforts were picking up pace. Egyptian sources told the BBC that there were already "signs of progress."

Reports say that Israel has put its plans for a ground offensive in Gaza on hold in order to give the discussions more time.

Today's talks are "expected to be decisive," according to Israel's Haaretz.

"It's now a 50-50 between a cease-fire and expanding the operation," a senior Israeli official told the paper. "We would prefer a diplomatic solution but, if we have no choice, we'll go into Gaza. There is no other way."

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This morning, around the same time that Morsi was making his comments, Israeli planes dropped leaflets over Gaza warning residents to evacuate, according to BBC correspondent Paul Danahar:

The warnings suggest that "either limited incursion or a heavy bombardment of the area in Gaza may be imminent ahead of ceasefire," Danahar said.

Meanwhile GlobalPost's Erin Cunningham said there was already a sense of panic in Gaza City:

 

In a video released today, top Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif warned that a ground invasion would "be the starting point for a new phase of the struggle of liberation," according to the BBC.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/121120/egypt-mohammed-morsi-israel-strikes-gaza-will-end-today