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Conflict In Gaza: Diplomatic Push For Ceasefire Intensifies

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Rolling updates on the news from Israel and the Gaza Strip, picking up from where we left the story last night:

Update at 12:50 p.m. ET. Peres Praises Egypt's Efforts:

A hopeful sign?

Egypt's effort to broker a ceasefire has been "constructive" and a "pleasant surprise," Israeli President Shimon Peres said a short while ago.

Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. Cease-fire Deal "Close," But Not Final:

"Senior Hamas official says no cease-fire deal with Israel but agreement is close," The Associated Press writes. Likewise, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office tells CNN that negotiations are still under way.

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET. More Talk Of A Truce; Announcement Soon?

Reuters just moved an alert that says "Israel and Gaza militants agree to Egyptian-brokered ceasefire." It cites "Hamas official Ayman Taha." And Reuters adds that the truce is due to be declared at 2 p.m. ET.

Update at 10:55 a.m. ET. Netanyahu Says Israel Would Be "Willing Partner" In Solution:

At his joint appearance with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would be a "willing partner" in a long-term solution to the crisis, Reuters and other news outlets report. Netanyahu also said that Hamas does not share Israel's concern for the safety of civilians.

Update at 10:40. Secretary-General Issues "Appeal To All To Halt Fire":

Further escalation would be "dangerous and tragic for Palestinians and Israelis," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon just said in Israel, at a news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I appeal to all to halt fire," Ban said.

"I also strongly caution against a ground operation [by Israel]," he said.

Update at 10:25 a.m. ET. Leaflets Lead Palestinians To Fear Ground Operation:

"Israel's air force has dropped leaflets across parts of Gaza City, warning residents to evacuate their homes 'immediately' and move towards the center of the city, sparking fears of an imminent ground operation," the BBC writes.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces tweets that "5 IDF soldiers were wounded by a rocket fired from #Gaza into #Israel" today, while the Alqassam Brigades tweets from Gaza that "9 Palestinians killed since the Arab League delegation arrived in #Gaza this afternoon, more than 120 since Wed."

Update at 8:20 a.m. ET. Egyptian President Predicts Ceasefire Today.

According to the BBC, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, "who is leading international efforts to broker a ceasefire, says he expects Israeli 'aggression' against Gaza to end on Tuesday." The BBC also writes that Egypt's official news agency says Morsi added that "the efforts to reach a ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israelis will produce positive results within a few hours."

7:15 a.m. ET:

-- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to the region. Clinton has left Cambodia, where she and President Obama were attending a regional summit. When she gets to the Mideast, Clinton will "meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Egyptian President Morsi, and representatives of the Palestinian authority," NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

-- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is already there. Reuters reports that:

"Ban on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, saying an Israeli ground operation in the Palestinian enclave would be a 'dangerous escalation' that must be avoided. Speaking at a news conference in Cairo after talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, Ban said he supported Egyptian-led efforts to bring an end to the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Hamas-run territory. ... 'My message is clear: all sides must halt fire immediately. Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk,' said Ban, who will go to Israel later on Tuesday. 'I will urge the Israeli leadership to end the violence,' he said."

-- The death toll in Gaza now stands at about 105, according to Hamas officials. Three Israelis have died in the week or so since fighting flared. The two sides continue to exchange fire. Israeli troops remain poised near the border with Gaza. As of yet, there has not been any move to send them into the Hamas-controlled territory;.

Some background.

What's behind this latest exchange?

As The Associated Press writes:

"Hamas wants Israel to halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight restrictions on trade and movement in and out of the territory that have been in place since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007. Israel demands an end to rocket fire from Gaza and a halt to weapons smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under the border with Egypt."

NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who has been reporting from Gaza, has put it this way:

"This current escalation began last Wednesday [Nov. 14], when Israel launched the operation and assassinated Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military chief. However, hostilities have been going on for days. Before that assassination, there were days of rocket attacks against Israel. There was a missile launched [at] an Israeli jeep. There was a firefight in which a Palestinian boy was killed. So both sides say the other side started it, and the retaliations and the killings just stretch back long before this escalation."

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