Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Envoy Makes Pitch for Peace

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- The Palestinian prime minister, who is making a final push to halt attacks on Israelis, met Tuesday with a U.S. envoy dispatched to the region to supervise implementation of a troubled Middle East peace plan.

The head of the U.S. monitoring team, John Wolf, held talks with Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the prime minister's meeting with Palestinian militias later in the day.

On Monday, Egyptian mediators went home without a firm agreement from Hamas and other armed groups to lay down arms, but Palestinian officials said they were confident a deal could be reached in the coming days.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said the talks were going well. "Maybe, after 24 hours, there will be positive results," she said after meeting with Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab league, in Cairo on Tuesday.

The militants have said they are willing, in principle, to halt attacks, but have attached conditions: Israel must halt targeted killings of Palestinians suspected of involvement in violence and other military strikes, release prisoners and withdraw to positions held before the outbreak of fighting in September 2000.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told parliament Monday that he would continue his offensive against Hamas. Israel also says a cease-fire can only be a step toward dismantling the armed groups. Abbas has said he will not use force against the militias for fear of triggering civil war.

The United States has not taken sides publicly in this dispute. Israel has sent the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, Avi Dichter, to Washington to brief National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on the government's position regarding Hamas and a cease-fire.

In another development, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat called the wife of imprisoned West Bank leader Marwan Barghouti early Tuesday, and told her Israel would release Barghouti in the next two days. Barghouti is on trial for murder, charged with complicity in terror attacks that killed 26 Israelis.

Israeli Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein wrote to Sharon that it would be "inconceivable" to release Barghouti, whom he described as a "first-rate architect of terrorism," before the trial ends.

The Hamas-Israel clash, which has included a suicide bombing in Jerusalem and helicopter strikes in Gaza over the past week, has caused dozens of casualties on both sides and endangered the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.

Palestinians involved in the Egyptian-mediated talks with the Palestinian factions said Egypt would invite all factions to Cairo in coming days. Previous talks there have not produced results.

Abbas' task is daunting. Not only does he face the Islamic militant Hamas, but the military wing of his own Fatah faction defied his call to halt attacks against Israelis.

After Monday's session with the Egyptian mediators, top Hamas official Ismail Abu Shanab said it was premature to talk about a cease-fire. A source close to the talks said U.S. mediators would press Israel to end the targeted killings, and that if it succeeded, the militant groups would then agree to a truce.

Speaking to the Israeli parliament, Sharon did not mention the cease-fire effort in Gaza, declaring that his government would "pursue and catch every initiator of terrorism and its perpetrators in every place and at every time until victory." He charged that Hamas had unleashed a "new wave of terror," noting Wednesday's suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus that killed 17, and said Israel would continue targeting terrorists.