A summit of European and Middle Eastern leaders rallied international support for the fragile truce in the Gaza Strip on Sunday and stepped up pressure on Israel to withdraw its troops.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who co-chaired the summit with Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak, said Israel should pull out its forces from the Gaza Strip if Palestinian militants stop firing rockets at the Jewish state.
Alongside five other European leaders in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Sarkozy said: "Israel must indicate clearly that if the rocket firing stops, the Israeli army will leave Gaza."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown went further, saying Israeli soldiers must withdraw immediately, but also called on Hamas to end the rocket attacks that sparked the three-week war.
The summit, which included neither Hamas nor Israeli representatives, convened as Palestinian armed groups offered a one-week truce in response to the unilateral ceasefire declared by Israel overnight.
"This fragile ceasefire has got to be followed immediately, if it is to be sustainable, by humanitarian access... by troop withdrawals, by an end to arms trafficking," Brown told journalists.
"Today a humanitarian tragedy must be met not just by sympathy but by an immediate mobilization of aid."
Mubarak announced plans to host a humanitarian aid conference which Sarkozy suggested should be "in a few days."
Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Arab League chief Amr Mussa called for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict in 2009.
"I hope that 2009 will be the year that will see the end of all these conflicts," Mubarak said.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who held meetings early Sunday with Mubarak, issued a message of reconciliation.
"We wished from the first day that this aggression did not happen, but when it started our first demand was the end of the aggression.
"And now it has stopped. We wish the end to the aggression remains, and that humanitarian aid begins (reaching) our people immediately."
Mubarak and Abbas examined "necessary steps to consolidate the ceasefire, work for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and create a suitable climate for a return to the truce," MENA said.
They also discussed how to reopen Gaza's "crossing points, lift the blockade and mobilise humanitarian and reconstruction resources" in the beleaguered territory.
No foreign monitors in Egypt
Egypt, which brokered a six-month truce between Israel and Hamas that expired on Dec. 19 triggering the latest fighting, has been a key mediator between Hamas and Israel, which boycotts the Islamist group as a terrorist organization.
Abbas has been pressing Hamas, which ousted his forces from Gaza in May 2007, to accept Egypt's peace plans.
Nabil Amro, Abbas's ambassador in Egypt, said earlier that the Palestinian Authority insists on the deployment of international troops to Gaza to "protect the Palestinian people."
Hamas said it will not agree to international forces in Gaza and will treat them as "occupying" soldiers.
Mubarak said Egypt was working hard to secure its borders, but said it would "never allow foreign monitors on its territories."
Egypt held talks with a Hamas delegation in Cairo earlier in the day aimed at consolidating the ceasefire.
"We are working with Hamas, and discussions were held today with them. As soon as Hamas's position is clarified we will let Israel know and wait for them to come," foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told AFP.
The Islamists' exiled number two Mussa Abu Marzuq later offered a one-week truce to allow Israel to withdraw its troops and open its border crossings with Gaza to basic goods.
After the summit, the six European leaders attending -- Sarkozy, Brown, and the leaders of Germany, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic -- headed to Israel for dinner talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Ban, who on Saturday condemned as "outrageous" an Israeli strike on a U.N.-run school in Gaza, held talks in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before travelling to Sharm el-Sheikh.
Israel rebuffs U.N.
More than 1,300 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on Dec. 27 aimed at halting rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel.
After the meeting, Mubarak is to travel to Kuwait on Monday for an Arab summit on the Gaza crisis that is expected to highlight divisions between participating states over how to end the conflict.
Mubarak's initiative called for an immediate ceasefire and allowing humanitarian aid into the impoverished enclave as well as ending arms smuggling between Egypt and Gaza and restarting Palestinian reconciliation talks.
Despite the diplomatic attempts by its neighbors, Israel said on Sunday it will not consider a timetable for withdrawing all of its forces from the Gaza Strip until Hamas cease their fire.
"We can't talk about a timetable for withdrawal until we know the ceasefire is holding," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, rebuffing U.N. calls for setting a timetable.
"If there is a danger Hamas is going to deliberately torpedo the ceasefire, and we will have to reinitiate offensive actions against Hamas, for that reason we have to be reticent about withdrawing our forces."