Israel and Gaza: no firing ceases as parties discuss ceasefire
While Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conferred with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on November 21, a terrorist bomb exploded on a civilian bus in Tel Aviv as Israeli jets bombarded terrorist cells in Gaza. At least 10 people were injured by the bomb blast in Tel Aviv, near the Israeli defense ministry headquarters. The bomb had been placed on the bus. The blast was followed by celebratory gunfire among the Hamas militants controlling the Gaza Strip. Clinton also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before sitting down to another pow-wow with Netanyahu.
Secretary Clinton flew to the Mideast following a summit of Asian countries where she accompanied President Barack Obama. In remarks following the November 20 meeting Netanyahu, she said that it is "essential to de-escalate the situation." According to Clinton, "The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored." She also gave assurances that American support for the Jewish state remains "rock-solid" while praising Egyptan President Mohamed Mursi's "personal leadership and Egypt's efforts thus far" to end the clash.
"As a regional leader and neighbor, Egypt has the opportunity and responsibility to continue playing a crucial and constructive role in this process. I will carry this message to Cairo tomorrow (Wednesday)," she said.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Secretary Clinton parleyed with Abbas, whose continues to demand an upgrade in Palestine’s status at the United Nations. The U.S. opposes the bid so long as Palestine does not negotiate with Israel. "Secretary Clinton informed the president that the U.S. administration is exerting every possible effort to reach an immediate ceasefire and the president expressed his full support for this endeavor," said Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat. "Once the Israelis accept to stop their bombardments, their assassinations, there will be a comprehensive ceasefire sustained from all parties," the diplomat said.
A ceasefire appears to be taking shape, despite the fact that the shooter have not yet ceased firing. According to Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth daily, a 72-hour ceasefire may emerge from Egypt as a broker and thus produce further talks. The newspaper said that under the proposal, neither Israel nor Hamas would be required to sign on but Israel would have to hold fire and end its attacks on top militants and examine ways to curtail its blockade of Gaza. Hamas would pledge not to strike Israel and also prevent other Palestinian factions from attacking Israel. The bus bombing has now thrown a wrench in the works.
Israel maintains that progress towards a ceasefire is hampered by Hamas’ demands that the Gaza blockade be lifted completely. Israeli security forces and military continue to fire into Gaza to keep Palestinians from the area near the border. Ezzat al-Rishq a Hamas spokesman, told the media that the ceasefire is hung up on "the temporary timeframe for a ceasefire that the Israelis want us to agree to". Rishq also said that a short breather in the conflict, the length of which he would not reveal, "would only buy (Israel) time" until a general election in January 2013 and "we would have accomplished nothing in the way of a long-term truce."
Israeli premier Netanyahu told Secretary Clinton that Israel needs a "long-term" solution to the long simmering difficulties with Hamas and other terrorist groups. Even before the current escalation of hostilities, sparked by an Israeli retaliation in which a Hamas military leader was killed by an Israeli missile attack, Hamas had been firing rockets into Israeli territory and conducting other deadly raids. Israel, Netanyahu said, remains ready to escalate its response should Hamas fail to silence its missile batteries. "A band-aid solution will only cause another round of violence," said Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman.
Even while diplomatic efforts were afoot, Israel struck more than 100 targets in Gaza overnight on November 20-21 and destroyed several Hamas government buildings. For their part, Palestinians militants fired 31 rockets at Israel but apparently caused no casualties. Israel’s innovative Iron Dome missile defense system is destroying approximately 70% of incoming rockets. So far, Israel has conducted over 1,500 strikes since the offensive began. In Gaza, medics say that 139 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including 34 children, have been killed. Nearly 1,400 rockets have been fired into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier, according to Israeli sources. There are reports that Hamas purposefully placed missile batteries close to mosques and schools, thereby assuring civilian casualties.
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