A Palestinian man walks next to a destroyed house following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City July 14, 2014. Since the latest bout of fighting began last Tuesday, militants have fired nearly 1,000 rockets at Israel, causing some injuries and damage to property, but no fatalities among Israelis. By contrast, 172 Palestinians have died as a result of Israel's air attacks. (Khalil Hamra / AP)
Jerusalem — Egypt presented a cease-fire plan Monday to end a week of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has left at least 185 people dead, and both sides said they were seriously 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,” while Israel’s policy-making Security Cabinet was set to discuss the proposal early today. Arab foreign ministers discussed the plan Monday night at an emergency meeting in Cairo, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected in the region today.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry announced the three-step plan starting at 2 a.m. Detroit time with a cease-fire 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.
Israel launched the offensive July 8, saying it was a response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-ruled Gaza. The Health Ministry in Gaza said 185 people, including dozens of civilians, have been killed, and more than 1,000 people wounded.
There have been no Israelis killed, although several have been wounded by rocket shrapnel, including two sisters, ages 11 and 13, who were seriously hurt Monday. Ahead of the Egyptian announcement, there appeared to be no slowdown in the fighting, with Hamas for the first time launching an unmanned drone into Israeli airspace that was shot down.
The violence followed the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month, as well as the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack, along with Israeli raids against Hamas militants and infrastructure.
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 cease-fire 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 following the abductions of the Israeli youths.