Israel must stop Gaza ground operation: Abbas

*Palestinian president says ground operation will cause more bloodshed and complicate efforts to end conflict *Egypt denounces Israel's ground operation

CAIRO, Egypt – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called on Israel to stop its ground operation in the Gaza Strip, saying it would cause more bloodshed and complicate efforts to end the conflict, Egyptian official MENA news agency reported on Friday.

Abbas' remarks came hours after Israel launched a ground operation aimed at hitting the Hamas group, and as the death toll in Gaza hit 248 early on Friday. “Isarel must stop its ground operation in the Gaza Strip,” Abbas said as he addressed a group of Egyptian intellectuals and journalists in Cairo.

“This operation would only lead to more bloodshed and complicate the situation and efforts to stop the (Israeli) aggression.” On Thursday, Abbas met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi amid intense diplomatic efforts to end the conflict between Israel and the Hamas, which entered its 11th day on Friday.

Egypt's Foreign Affairs Ministry too denounced Israel's ground operation and demanded that both sides accept a Cairo proposed truce immediately and unconditionally. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri lashed out at Hamas, saying it could have saved dozens of lives had it accepted Cairo's ceasefire proposal presented earlier this week.

Hamas had rejected the ceasefire intended to start on Tuesday and continued firing rockets at Israeli cities. Hamas has laid out a set of conditions, among them the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners Israel has rearrested after freeing them in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

Abbas also met in Cairo with Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq, who insisted on changes to the Egyptian truce plan including guarantees on opening border crossings to Gaza. The initiative called for a return to an Egyptian-brokered 2012 ceasefire that ended eight days of fighting, and loosened border restrictions on goods for the blockaded coastal enclave.

Abbas travels to Turkey from where he was to head to Bahrain and Qatar as part of his diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, MENA reported. He said there was no meeting scheduled with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Qatar.

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