Clinton seeks Gaza truce to hold off Israeli invasion
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "de-escalation" of the conflict in Gaza on Wednesday as the violence entered its eighth day. Clinton is pushing for a truce that could hold off Israel's threatened ground invasion of the enclave.
- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, a day after holding talks with Israel’s PM.
- Violence continues on Wednesday, dashing earlier hopes an Egyptian brokered ceasefire would be implemented on late Tuesday.
- France says Iran bears a “heavy responsibility” for the unrest in Gaza.
- Rockets fired from Gaza continued to land in Israel on Wednesday.
- Israeli air forces launched numerous overnight raids on targets in Gaza.
- At least 138 Palestinians have died in the 8-day conflict, mostly civilians. Five Israelis have also been killed.
Hamas leaders in Cairo accused the Jewish state of failing to respond to proposals and said an announcement on holding fire would not come before daylight on Wednesday. Israel Radio quoted an Israeli official saying a truce was held up due to “a last-minute delay in the understandings between Hamas and Israel.”
An initial halt to attacks may, however, not see the sides stand their forces down from battle stations immediately. Clinton, who flies to Cairo to see Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi later on Wednesday, spoke of a deal “in the days ahead.”
Like most Western powers, Washington shuns Hamas as an obstacle to peace and has blamed it for the Gaza conflagration. A UN Security Council statement condemning the conflict was blocked on Tuesday by the United States, which complained that it “failed to address the root cause,” the Palestinian rockets.
As Clinton arrived in Israel after nightfall, Israel was stepping up its bombardment from air and sea. At one point munitions slammed into Gaza at a rate of one every 10 minutes.
Gazan rocket fire waned overnight but resumed before dawn on Wednesday with six launches, Israel said. No one was hurt.
After seven days of hostilities that have killed over 130 Palestinians and five Israelis, both sides are looking for more than a return to the sporadic calm that has prevailed across the blockaded enclave since Israel ended a much more devastating air and ground offensive four years ago.
After hollding talks with Israel’s Netanyahu US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton assured the PM of “rock-solid” US support for Israel’s security, spoke of seeking a “durable outcome” and of Egypt’s “responsibility” for promoting peace.
“In the days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region toward an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region,” Clinton said.
“It is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza. The rocket attacks from terrorist organisations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored,” she said.
“But if not, I’m sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people.”
As Israeli aircraft have carried out hundreds of strikes on rocket stores, launchpads and suspected Hamas command posts since assassinating the head of its military wing a week ago. Tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers have been preparing tanks and infantry units for a possible invasion.
During the night, explosions again rocked the city of Gaza and other parts of the Strip, while rockets from the enclave, some essentially home-made, others Iranian-designed and smuggled through tunnels from Egypt, landed in southern Israel.
One reached as far as Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv, on Tuesday, the latest to jar Israel’s metropolis, long untroubled by Palestinian attacks. Another rocket fell close to Jerusalem, the holy city claimed by both sides in the conflict.
Medical officials in Gaza said 31 Palestinians were killed on Tuesday. An Israeli soldier and a civilian died when rockets exploded near the Gaza frontier, police and the army said.
Gaza medical officials say 138 people have died in Israeli strikes, mostly civilians, including 34 children. In all, five Israelis have died, including three civilians killed last week.