Foreign powers have stepped up the pressure on both Israel and Hamas to stop hostilities after four days of attacks which have seen 384 Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip.
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On the fifth day of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, attacks continue amid concerted diplomatic efforts to arrive at a truce between Israel and Hamas.
The Israeli cabinet concluded at a Wednesday meeting in Tel Aviv that the French proposal for a 48-hour ceasefire on humanitarian grounds was unrealistic because it would not guarantee the end of the Palestinian rocket fire. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner pushed the idea of a humanitarian truce after a meeting on Tuesday night in Paris with his European Union counterparts.
"That proposal contained no guarantees of any kind that Hamas will stop the rockets and smuggling," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP. "It is not realistic to expect Israel to cease fire unilaterally with no mechanism to enforce the cessation of shooting and terror from Hamas."
| Map of Israeli offensive in Gaza, Picture AFP
‘Unrealistic’ truce proposal
Palmor added that Israel still intended to examine other ceasefire proposals while another Israeli official suggested that France may make amendments to its plan. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to meet President Sarkozy in Paris on Jan 1. The French President could stop in Israel on his way to Lebanon on Jan 6.
The Arab League is also holding an emergency session on how to deal with Israel’s offensive on Gaza. Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa called for an immediate meeting of rival Palestinian factions.
The latest casualty count since the aerial onslaught began on Saturday is 384 dead and more than 800 wounded, according to Palestinian medical sources. A UN agency said at least 62 of the dead were civilians.
Hamas attacks into Israel continue
A precarious calm descended on Gaza early on Wednesday. According to FRANCE 24’s Gaza correspondent Radjaa Abou Daga – one of the few journalists reporting from inside the enclave - "attacks inside Gaza city have stopped but not in the north and the south of the Gaza Strip."
But the attacks failed to put an end to Hamas rocket attacks into Israel – the original cause of the latest Israeli offensive. At least four people – including an Israeli soldier – have been killed by Hamas rocket and mortar attacks since Saturday.
|About forty Israeli strikes targeted ministry buildings in Gaza early on Tuesday. Credit: AFP Photo|
Reporting from the Eretz crossing at the Gaza border, FRANCE 24 correspondent Lucas Menget said Hamas still had resources. “We just witnessed a Qassam rocket fire behind us. Three rockets were fired toward Beersheba this morning, two of them exploded in the desert. This tends to prove that Hamas still has resources.”
According to the Israeli military, two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit the city of Beersheba on Tuesday, 42 km inside Israel - the deepest such attack yet by militants, who have allegedly launched more than 400 rockets across the border since Saturday.
The Israeli army is still barring any foreign journalists from entering Gaza, making it difficult to fully assess the situation inside the Hamas-held territory.
|The Israeli operation killed more than 360 people in four days. Credit: AFP Photo|
Signs of divisions in the Israeli cabinet
Hamas was cool to the idea of a truce. It said it was up to Israel to stop firing and lift the blockade of Gaza.
"You can't equate the victim and the jailer," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum was quoted saying to reporters. "What is required at this time is an Arab and international effort to stop the (Israeli) aggression and open the (border) crossings.”
And within the Israeli cabinet, there were growing signs of divisions on the prospect of a ceasfire deal.
FRANCE 24’s Jerusalem correspondent Marc de Chalvron said Defence Minister Ehud Barak was more inclined to accept the French proposal. “He thinks that the aerial offensive is coming to an end. He’s already discussed it twice with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner after initially opposing it.”
Meanwhile, Israeli ground troops are still said to be readying for a possible incursion.
If a ceasefire were to be accepted, its enforcement could take a few days, leaving time for Israeli ground troops to take a few forays inside Gaza, even briefly, says Chalvron.
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Date created : 2008-12-31