Egypt halts peace talks after attack on Sinai


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Egypt announced yesterday that it was postponing the talks in Cairo aimed at cementing the Gaza dispute ceasefire, after it closed its border with the Palestinian enclave in response to deadly attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Two attacks on Friday in Sinai, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel, ended in the deaths of at least 33 Egyptian security personnel in some of the worst anti-state violence since the former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ousted the Islamist President, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, last year.

Citing “the state of emergency in the border area between Egypt and Gaza” and the closure on Friday of the Rafah border crossing, a senior Egyptian diplomat said indirect talks between Israel and Palestinian factions would not resume in the coming week.

No new date for the negotiations has been announced.

The talks, which focused on preserving the truce of 26 August that ended the five-week Gaza dispute and on opening the borders of the Egyptian and Israeli-blockaded territory, adjourned in late September for Jewish and Muslim holidays.

The ceasefire has been holding. An easing of frontier restrictions is crucial for rebuilding constructing tens of thousands of homes in the Gaza Strip which were damaged or destroyed in the fighting in the border area between Egypt and Gaza.

Israel wants security arrangements that will ensure such material is not used by Hamas to rebuild cross-border tunnels or to manufacture rockets, whose firing at southern Israel triggered the Israeli offensive.

Palestinian officials say 2,100 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the summer conflict. Israel put its death toll at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

The closing of the crossing came after a suicide bomb blast on Friday targeted an army checkpoint at Sheikh Zuweid. Another soldier was killed when militants opened fire at an army checkpoint in Al-Arish.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks in Sinai.