Gaza death toll mounts as peace efforts intensify
Israel continued air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza on Monday as militants fired dozens of rockets at the Jewish state. With the death toll mounting, Egypt suggested it was "close" to brokering a peace deal between the two sides.
Summary of Monday's events:
- Egypt’s premier said a peace deal could be “close”.
- Israeli air strike kills Ramaz Harab, a senior commander in Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al Quds Brigades.
- The death toll from six days of violence has risen to at least 90 Palestinians, half of them civilians, and three Israelis.
- Overnight Israeli air stikes hit around 80 targets.
- Rockets continue to be fired into Israel.
- Turkey accuses Israel of carrying out "terrorist acts" in Gaza.
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon heads to Cairo for peace talks.
- Israel says it will not attack Gaza if militant rocket attacks cease.
After an overnight lull, militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip fired 12 rockets at southern Israel in the span of 10 minutes, causing no casualties, police said. One landed near a school, but it was closed at the time.
Ban is expected to lend his weight to truce efforts spearheaded by Egypt, which borders both Israel and Gaza and whose Islamist government has been hosting Hamas leaders. Ban visits Israel on Tuesday.
FRANCE 24’s Gallagher Fenwick, reporting from Gaza, said residents live in fear that Israel is more likely to step up its offensive than end it.
“When you consider the reality on the ground, which is the incessant Israeli raids matched by just about as many rockets fired by Hamas and other militant groups, it’s very difficult to believe we are on a path towards peace,” Fenwick said.
“At this moment, a lot of people in Gaza are comparing this operation to the major Israeli offensive four years ago. They believe the level of violence this time has not yet reached its peak and it’s going to get worse."
'Peace deal could be close'
Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said Monday that efforts to negotiate a truce in Gaza are ongoing and a deal to stop the fighting could be close.
“Negotiations are going on as we speak and I hope we will reach something soon that will stop this violence and counter violence,” Kandil said.
Both sides point blame
As Hamas and other Islamist factions spurn permanent peace with the Jewish state, mediated deals for each to hold fire unilaterally have been the only formula for stemming bloodshed in the past. But each side now placed the onus on the other.
Izzat Risheq, aide to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, wrote on Facebook that Hamas would enter a truce only after Israel “stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza.”
Listing Israel’s terms, the Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon wrote on Twitter: “If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel’s citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack.”
Western support for Israel
Israel’s operation has so far drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called its right to self-defence in the face of years of cross-border attacks, but there have also been growing appeals for an end to the hostilities.
Netanyahu said he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in Gaza. At least 22 of the Gaza fatalities have been children.
In scenes recalling Israel’s 2008-2009 winter invasion of Gaza, tanks, artillery and infantry have massed in field encampments along the sandy, fenced-off border and military convoys moved on roads in the area. Israel has also authorised the call-up of 75,000 military reservists, so far mobilising around half that number.
A big, bloody rocket strike on Israelis might be enough for Netanyahu to give a green light for a ground offensive.
As well as the three Israelis killed so far, dozens have been left wounded in hundreds of salvoes since Wednesday. Some rockets reached as far as Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital, but were shot down by the country’s air defence system.