A member of the Iraqi security forces stands inside a damaged house in the southern entrance of the city of Tikrit on Sunday. Photograph:  Ahmad al-Rubaye/Getty Images

Shia militias ignore preconditions for US air strikes, as tiny IS force holds on to city

 Yemenis gather beside a burning vehicle allegedly belonged to Houthi fighters following clashes with tribal militiamen loyal to Yemeni president Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The deployment against the Houthi indicates an all-out Saudi offensive

Crac des Chevaliers, an 11th century crusader castle in Syria which has been reclaimed by the country’s department of antiquities, having been seized by insurgents in 2012. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Authorities avert destruction at some sites by moving artefacts to safety

Children playing at a makeshift settlement for Syrian refugees in Bar Elias, in the Bekaa valley. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 215,000 people have been killed since the start of the crisis in 2011, about  half of them civilians. Photograph: Jamal Saidi/Reuters

Conflict takes heavy toll as fear and crime grind down a dispersed people

Bakdash, a modest shop planted in the centre of 18th-century Souq al-Hamidiya in Damascus, is mobbed from morning to night

Damascus shop Bakdash serves 15,000 customers daily despite shattered economy

Syrian opposition leader Khaled Khoja speaks after a meeting in Paris earlier this month. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA

Years of carnage are forcing rival groups to see the value of a united national vision

An Islamic State loyalist in Raqqa, Syria, on June 29th, 2014. Men who live in the IS-controlled city told The Irish Times the city has “no government”. Photograph: Reuters

Men who fled Raqqa describe life in city ‘with no law, no courts, no schools, no universities’

Syrians enjoy a snack in a park in the city of Damascus. The war in Syria is entering its fifth year. Photograph: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

In part one of a series, Damascus is bursting with life, but there is neither peace nor safety

A 2001 file picture taken shows Iraqi workers cleaning a statue of winged bull at an archeological site in Nimrud, which has been levelled by Islamic State. Photograph: Karim Sahib/AFP

Bulldozing of capital of Assyrian empire condemned as ‘cultural barbarism’

Members of the Iraqi security forces and Shia fighters celebrate after taking control of the town of Hamrin from Islamic State militants, on Tuesday. Two of the Shia militias most feared by Sunnis are taking part in the ongoing offensive to take Tikrit. Photograph:Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

US and Iran have joined soldiers, militiamen and tribesmen in crucial campaign for strategic city

A Palestinian girl  carries her sister during a protest in the southern Gaza Strip calling for reconstruction of houses. Some 150,000 Gazans remain homeless. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Failure of donors to honour pledges and Israel’s withholding of revenues, cited by senior PA figure

At least 70 Syrian army soldiers and 86 insurgents have reportedly died in clashes during an offensive to cut off insurgent supply lines in Aleppo. Photograph: Hosam Katan/Reuters

Trial ceasefire proposal put to UN Security Council following talks with Assad

Neighbours and friends of the relatives of Egyptian Coptic men killed in Libya attend Mass in south Cairo. A banner with pictures of the men who were killed is displayed on the church wall. Photograph: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

Raids in retaliation for killing of 21 hostages escalate 20-month campaign

Canadian Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy arrives to talk to the judge  near Tora prison in Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian judge  has ordered Mr Fahmy and another Al-Jazeera English journalist, Baher Mohammed,  to be released on bail  as their retrial on terror-related charges continues. Photograph: Hassan AmmarAP

High court had overturned original sentences for assisting illegal Muslim Brotherhood

Egyptian relatives of the members of security forces killed in North Sinai province during an attack arrive at Cairo military airport in  Egypt. Photograph: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images

Outlawed Muslim Brotherhood goes on attack ahead of March elections

Omaima (left) Fatima and Somaia Halawa sisters of Ibrahim Halawa whose trial in Egypt has been postponed. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Announcement made without giving cause, trial to resume on March 29th in new venue

The father of IS-murdered Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh is surrounded by family and security during a mourning ceremony at his family clan headquarters in Karak, Jordan. Photograph: Khalil Mazraawiafp/Getty

Amman pre-empts tribesmen’s revenge for killing of Muath al-Kaseasbeh with executions

US president Barack Obama: said video would redouble the determination of the US-led coalition to “degrade and defeat” Islamic State. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

US president says video of Muath Kaseasbeh execution is further evidence of IS ‘viciousness and barbarity’

Men chant outside a social hall in Amman, Jordan, with a picture of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh after a video of his purported execution was released by IS. Photograph: Warrick Page/The New York Times)

Kingdom has been in two minds over participation in US-led coalition

President of Cyprus Nikos Anastasiadis (left) welcomes  new Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras in Nicosia on Monday. The euro zone “would be maimed without Greece and Cyprus”, said Mr Tsipras.  Photograph: Katia Christodoulou/EPA

On first foreign trip in office, Greek PM says Cyprus should follow example of Athens

Australian journalist Peter Greste: his release was granted under a law permitting deportation of foreigners to their home countries for trial or to serve out sentences. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy could be deported but Egyptian Baher Mohamed remains in jail

 Mahmoud Bazzi (centre),   is suspected of murdering two Irish soldiers  serving with the United Nations 34 years ago. Photograph: PA

Privates Derek Smallhorne and Thomas Barrett were killed while serving in Lebanon

A video grab image from 2005 shows Sajida al-Rishawi, who tried to blow herself up at a hotel in Amman. Islamic State wants her released from a Jordanian prision in return for the release of air force pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh. Photograph: Jordan TV/Reuters

While Muath al-Kasaesbeh is highly respected, Sajida al-Rishawi has blood on her hands

Egyptian youths shout slogans at a protest in Cairo yesterday commemorating the anniversary of the 2011 uprising. Photograph: Mohamed Shokry Algarnoussi/EPA

Clashes between police and protesters on anniversary of struggle leave dozens hurt

A Houthi fighter  in Sanaa. Yemen’s  rebels have welcomed proposed concessions but their gunmen still hold positions outside the presidential palace. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Hadi decision marks abrupt turnaround after power-sharing deal was agreed

An airstrike from US-led coalition in the city of Kobani, Syria, in November. Islamic State laid siege to Kobani, in September.  The fighting continues with most residents having fled but the city is being defended by the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Lack of coherence in US foreign policy collides with local matrix of loyalties

A supporter of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak celebrates after a court in Cairo found in his favour. Photograph: EPA

Court rules proper procedures not followed in case

A street vendor sells bananas close to a market in Cairo. Photograph:  Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Government accused of moving too slowly

 Egyptian Coptic Pope Tawadros II (left), and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (centre), speak at the Coptic Cathedral of Saint Marcos in Cairo. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

Egyptian president surprises congregation with speech at Coptic Christmas Eve service

Ireland’s ambassador Isolde Moylan with Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, whom she met dozens of times, in his compound in Ramallah in 2000

Isolde Moylan, who retires this year, recalls the more challenging postings of her career

A Syrian refugee camp. Last spring Lebanon began to limit the number of Syrians granted entry for “humanitarian” reasons. Photograph: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images

Number of refugees from Syria’s conflict has reached 25 per cent of Lebanese population

Entry to Hague court to enable investigation of alleged war crimes

Displaced: a Syrian woman who has fled Raqqa wails after passing through a Turkish border gate in September. Photograph: Orhan Cicek/Anadolu/Getty

The conquest of the Iraqi city of Mosul and the brutal beheading of five westerners in June finally shocked other countries out (...)

Pope Francis and other senior Christian and Muslim clerics have urged members of the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East to stay on in the region despite conflict and discrimination. Photograph: Reuters/Osservatore Romano

Clerics express concern faithful could disappear from heartland

A fruit vendor  at a Cairo market. Government interventions aim to improve life for Egyptians. Photograph: Mahmoud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images

Growth is forecast at 3.8% but clear economic plan may be lacking

Ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi gestures during his trial on charges of spying and terrorism. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood organisation has been desigated a terrorist group by Cairo. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

New law seen by human rights organisations as a catch-all measure to crush dissent

A file picture of Egyptian Coptic children attending a  new year Mass  at the Virgin Mary Coptic Christian church in  Al-Warrak, Cairo. The Egyptian capital this Christmas is a sanctuary for Syrian, Sudanese, Libyan, Somali, and Palestinian refugees. Photograph: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptians celebrate festive season in spite of their country’s continuing troubles

Cairo University students shout slogans against the government and light a flare in protest at a court’s decision to drop a case against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak over the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Authorities accused of going easy on former president while imposing death sentences on dissidents

Omaima (left) Fatima and Somaia Halawa sisters of Ibrahim Halawa aged 18 who is currently in prison in Egypt, pictured in their home in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Third postponement in case of 18-year-old held after arrest at pro-Morsi protest

Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak(86), lies on a gurney in the defendant’s cage during a court hearing in Cairo. Photograph:Tarek el-Gabbas/AP

Prosecutor-general to appeal verdict

Omaima (left) Fatima and Somaia Halawa sisters of Ibrahim Halawa aged 18 who is currently in prison in Egypt, pictured in their home in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

18-year-old has been held in Tora Prison since last year after arrest at pro-Morsi protest

Palestinian school girls return to their houses in Beit Hanoun town in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials estimate that 100 lorry loads a day of the entire range of building supplies are needed to reconstruct Gaza. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Border still closed to 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza seeking treatment in Egypt and elsewhere

A man reads a copy of the Iranian ‘Hamshahri’ newspaper  with a headline reading: ‘The Geneva deal extended until first of July’. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

Both Khamenei and Rouhani will need to play their cards carefully

Members of Iraqi Shiite militia al-Abbas brigades, who are fighting with Iraqi forces against Islamic state group, at Kitba village near Tikrit in northern Iraq. Photograph: Ali Mohammed/EPA

Washington to give anti-IS tribesmen $18-$24m worth of arms

An Israeli border policewoman patrols in a park in Jerusalem where Ethiopian Jews gathered yesterday. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

Curbs on human rights are alienating the largely young dispossessed people

A relative of Uday and Rassan Abu Jamal, cousins who killed four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue, holds their pictures. Palestinian assaults on Israelis have surged recently. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

Violence likely to escalate as individuals pose challenge for Israeli and Palestinian leaders

Smoke rising from the Baiji oil refinery in northern Iraq. Iraqi forces appear to be lifting the months-long siege on the country’s main oil refinery. Photograph: EPA

Iraq’s new prime minister taking cautious steps to build a more united front

An armed Palestinian woman who supports the mainstream Fatah movement, and belongs to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, during a rally in the West Bank city of Hebron yesterday commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat. Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA

Futile negotiations by Abbas may have put a third intifada firmly on the agenda

The bodies of members of the Abu Jamei family, who were  killed in an Israeli airstrike, are buried in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on July 21st.  Photograph: Sergey Ponomarev/The New York Times

Attacks on Palestinians showed ‘callous indifference’ to women, children and elderly

An Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga soldier   on the outskirts of Suruc, near the Turkey-Syria border. Photograph: Vadim Ghirda/AP

Turkey allows IS fighters to cross its border while the US is slated for dithering

Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “The Barbaros ship will continue to do its seismic studies . .  nobody should try to create a crisis.” Photograph: Kerem Uzel/Bloomberg

Nikos Anastasiades to veto talks on Turkish EU accession after maritime incident

Turkish Kurds watch the Syrian town of Kobani from  the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province at the weekend. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Re-education, with the object of depriving the cult of its spiritual force, is the key to countering the militia

A rebel fighter on the  the frontline against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Aleppo. Photograph: Hosam Katan/Reuters

Fighters migrate from one faction to another in search of highest salaries

Destroyed houses in the Al-Sha-af neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Analysis: territory has less than half the budget sought for rebuilding

Migrants arriving at Porto Empedocle in Sicily after being rescued approx 40km off the Libyian coast by a Dutch freighter the Dinteldijk. Photograph: Frank Miller

The International Organisation for Migration says that 22,000 migrants have died since the year 2000

Supporters of Hizbullah wave the Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian flags, along with the yellow Hizbullah flags during a gathering to mark the “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Day” in Beirut’s southern suburb in July. Photograph: Getty Images

Partners provide boots on ground as US co-ordinates attacks from air

The mother (right) of Lebanese soldier Ali Ahmed Hammadi al-Kharrat, who was killed by a bomb near the border town of Arsal, mourns with relatives at his coffin during his funeral in Sidon. Photograph: Ali Hashisho/Reuters

The country now finds itself the third front in the war against Islamic State

Crisis has placed heavy burden on fragile environment, says report

 A grab picture from Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV shows Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving a televised address.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah says coalition is pretext for foreign intervention

Kurdish Peshmerga troops fighting  against Islamic State militants  in Khazir, on the border between Kurdistan and Iraq yesterday. Photograph: Azad Lashkari/Reuters

Damascus warned not to interfere with air raids

US secretary of state John Kerry says Iran’s alliance with the Syrian government in its fight against insurgents excludes engagement with Tehran. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/Reuters

Russia, Syria and Iran out in the cold, despite situation on the ground

US secretary of state John Kerry at  a news conference in Ankara yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Brendan Smialowski

Kerry receives pledges of humanitarian assistance, logistics support and intelligence

Iraqi vice-president Nouri al-Maliki (left) and new prime minister Haider al-Abadi. Photograph: Reuters/Hadi Mizban

US and Iranian co-ordinated attacks on IS have blessing of Obama and Ayatollah

Israeli soldiers watch the Syrian side of the border near the Quneitra crossing point between Syria and Israel yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Atef Safadi

Clashes between Syrian troops and fundamentalists escalate on border with Israel

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu: reported to have told his aides that Israel’s call for the demilitarisation of Gaza “doesn’t appear to be attainable in either the short term or the long term”. Photograph: Reuters/Baz Ratner

No preparations in train for negotiations, Israeli PM reported to have told advisers

Members of the Yazidi religious minority  at the Syria-Iraq border in Fishkhabour, northern Iraq. Amnesty gives examples where entire Yezidi families have been kidnapped and are being held in terrible conditions in Mosul and villages captured by the Islamic State. Photograph: EPA

Report details how men in Sinjar region were rounded up and taken in pick-up trucks to be slaughtered

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: to appeal to the UN General Assembly to exert pressure on Israel and the US. Photograph: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

Analysis: initiative would see US acting as mediator with Israel

A Palestinian boy runs down a street in the Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood of Gaza city yesterday. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Palestinians threaten to bring Israel before International Criminal Court

Palestinians sit on a couch in the remains of their home in the east of Gaza City on Wednesday, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli offensive after a ceasefire was declared. Photograph: Suhaib Sale/Reuters

Displaced residents leave shelters to assess damage to homes and workplaces

Palestinians celebrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah last night following the announcement of the ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Photograph: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

Analysis: much depends on UN involvement in monitoring arms smuggling into Strip

Palestinians inspect a destroyed car after Israeli air strikes in Gaza City yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Mohammed Saber

Cairo awaits Israeli response as attacks from both sides continue

Palestinians take cover as smoke rises after Israeli warplanes targeted a house in the Al-Shatea refugee camp in the west of Gaza City yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Mohammed Saber

Analysis: resilient structure helps group rebound after attacks on leadership

US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel and Gen Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Q: How big a threat does the Islamic State pose to global stability?

A Palestinian mother and her sons survey the rubble of a destroyed home in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip. The funeral for seven members of the family whose house was attacked in an Israeli airstrike was held yesterday. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Analysis: Palestinian factions must balance rocket fire against Gazans’ needs

Palestinians ride a donkey cart yesterday past the ruins of houses that witnesses said were destroyed during the Israeli offensive in Johr El-Deek village near the central Gaza Strip. Photograph: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Hamas wrong to seek to cover up military loss with political moves, says Netanyahu

Gamal Siam, a Cairo University professor, next to a picture of his his deceased son Sherif, in Cairo. Egyptian police arrested 29-year-old Sherif Siam while clearing a Cairo protest camp one year ago. Four days later, he and 36 others suffocated in a packed police van on the way to jail. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Uprising’s call for bread, freedom and social justice has been sidelined

 Protesters supporting the Muslim Brotherhood  demonstrate in the Al-Madey neighbourhood of Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Azza Fadaly/EPA

Low-key demonstrations mark last year’s camp dispersals

 Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is transported from a helicopter to an ambulance on his way to his trial in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Ahmed Asadi/EPA

Ousted ruler defends his record from the dock

Israeli soldiers during a protest by Palestinians against the Israeli offensive in Gaza at a checkpoint near Ramallah yesterday. Photograph: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

Most points in Egypt’s proposal had been agreed, says head of Palestinian delegation

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (left) talks with Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby during their meeting at the Arab League in Cairo on Monday. Photograph: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

Despite Israel’s primary demand, Hamas refuses to demilitarise

Palestinian children living in Lebanon  express solidarity with the Palestinian children living in Gaza, in Maroun Al Ras village in southern Lebanon, near the border between Lebanon and Israel, yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Ali Hashisho

Israeli officials predict third 72-hour ceasefire needed to finalise deal in Cairo

Palestinians gather yesterday around the remains of a mosque in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, that witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike before a 72-hour truce began.  Photograph: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

72-hour ceasefire continues to hold

Róisín O’Rourke holds up an image of Gaza victim Shayma al-Masri on Sunday at an event at Rosses Point, Co Sligo, to support children in Gaza. Photograph: Brian Farrell

Despite cessation, outcome of talks in Cairo is uncertain

Palestinians gather at a cleaning materials factory that caught fire after it was hit by Israeli air strikes west of Gaza City yesterday. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Egypt backs negotiators’ demand for lifting of Israeli siege of Gaza

 Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli soldiers during clashes at Bet Forik checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus, yesterday, during a protest against Israel attacks on the Gaza Strip. Photograph:  EPA

Israeli talks delegation returns from Cairo to Jerusalem

Gazans, who may wait for a month for a permit to cross their borders, want easier passage. Photograph: EPA/Abir Sultan

Hamas now seen by Palestinians as the only resistance to Israeli occupation

A Palestinian Hamas supporter attends a rally in Gaza City yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

Hamas and Fatah know that outrage at the destruction in Gaza will soon wane

Palestinian Hamas supporters gather for a rally in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Thursday’s rally drew several thousand supporters and a senior Hamas official has told supporters at the rally that the war with Israel won’t be over until the group’s political demands are met. Israel and Hamas were holding indirect negotiations in Cairo, Egypt about new border arrangements for blockaded Gaza and extending a cease-fire. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo

Israelis to confer with home government before responding to Palestinian demands

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: a military man with little experience in international diplomacy.    Photograph: Reuters

Analysis: al-Sisi ’s negotiators face Herculean task to secure long-term truce

Sarajevo, which was ‘besieged, blockaded, and bombarded by aircraft, artillery, mortars, tank and heavy machine gun rounds’ during the siege of the city by Serbian forces in the Bosnian war of the 1990s. Photograph: Elvis Barukcic/AFP/Getty Images

Sarajevo Letter: religious and ethnic tolerance contrasts with narrow doctrine of Isis

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah last month. REUTERS/Alaa Badarneh

Talks proceed despite Israel’s boycott and the failure of US deputy secretary of state William Burns to arrive

A Palestinian woman reacts upon seeing the wreckage of her house in Beit Hanoun town at the weekend. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Cairo discussions sponsored by Egyptian president focus on basic ceasefire plan

An Israeli mobile artillery unit firing towards the Gaza Strip yesterday. Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters

Pro and anti-Hamas states snipe at one another to gain political leverage

Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (right) making a donation to a fund to support the Egyptian economy at a bank in Cairo earlier this month. Sisi had just announced cuts to subsidies in an attempt to improve the  economy. Photograph: Egyptian presidency/EPA

The government is finally tackling subsidies, but who will benefit and who will suffer?

A Palestinian child who was injured in the Gazan conflict is prepared to be moved by ambulance from a hospital in north Sinai to Cairo after crossing the Gaza-Egypt border. About 100 wounded Palestinians have been allowed enter Egypt from Gaza for hospital treatment. Photograph: Muhamed Sabry/AP

Analysis: Cairo longs to see Hamas deposed and the Palestinian Authority returned

Israeli soldiers from the combat engineer corp attend the funeral of their comrade Sgt Amit Yeori (20) at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem yesterday. Yeori, a member of an infantry unit of the engineering corps involved in finding and blowing up the Hamas tunnel systems in Operation Protective Edge, was killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip. Photograph: EPA/Jim hollander

Analysis: Hamas’s call for a 24-hour truce had humanitarian and strategic purposes

Displaced Palestinian women  cry after an Israeli airstrike hit their  shelter in a UN school, at Beit Hanoun hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, yesterday. Photograph: Adel Hana/AP

While there has been a pause in hostilities, an end is not in sight

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius meeting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo on Friday to seek end to violence in Gaza. Photograph: EPA/Ghanaim/Palestinian Authority

Qatari effort would deprive Egypt’s newly inaugurated president of a diplomatic coup

Arab League secretary general Nabil al-Arabi (left)  with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo on Wednesday.  Abbas is widely criticised by Palestinians for not condemning Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

Cairo’s failure to broker a ceasefire is not surprising given its difficult position

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