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US prepared to negotiate Gaza ceasefire, Obama says

© Photo: Mohammed Abed, AFP | A Palestinian family whose house was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-11

President Barack Obama offered the help of the United States on Thursday in brokering a ceasefire to end escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, as world leaders warned of an urgent need to avoid another Israeli-Palestinian war.

In a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said his government was prepared to broker a ceasefire. The White House said the US was willing to “facilitate a cessation of hostilities,” potentially along the lines of a 2012 ceasefire that Egypt and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton helped broker.

Obama said he was concerned the fighting could escalate and "called for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians".

Israeli warplanes kept up deadly raids on Gaza on Friday morning but failed to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets across the border.

Mounting casualties and the growing prospect of an Israeli ground incursion in Gaza drew alarm at the United Nations, where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that it is more urgent than ever to avoid another Israeli-Palestinian war. He called on both sides to agree to an immediate ceasefire.

“It is unacceptable for citizens on both sides to permanently live in fear of the next aerial attack,” Ban said.

US relationship with Israel ‘unshakeable’

More than 85 Palestinians have been killed, including dozens of civilians, since Israel began an offensive in Gaza.

The offensive aims to put an end to rocket fire from the coastal strip that has reached deeper than ever into the Jewish state amid tensions over the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager, who was burned alive.

The offer to help bring about a ceasefire could draw the US deeper into a conflict, but precisely what role the US would play remains unclear. The United States considers Hamas to be a terrorist organisation and has a policy barring contact with its leaders.

US deputy spokesperson for the US State Department Marie Harf stressed in an interview with FRANCE 24 that while the US was in correspondence with the Palestinians, its relationship with Israel was “very important”.

“We’ve worked closely with the Palestinians to help them build up their capacity in terms of their security and working to help make the situation better, [but] our support to Israel is long-standing and it’s unshakeable,” she said on Thursday.

“We’ve urged both sides not to take steps to inflame any further tensions; we’re talking daily to the Israelis and the Palestinians and we’ll keep [doing so],” she added.

‘Hamas to blame’

A senior Obama administration official told AP that policy hasn’t changed but that other players in the Mideast could act as intermediaries, as was the case when Egypt and Clinton helped secure the 2012 ceasefire. Egypt, Turkey or Qatar are all possibilities, said the official, who demanded anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

Speaking to Netanyahu, Obama condemned the rockets from Gaza and said Israel has the right to self-defence. Pro-Israel lawmakers in the US and the State Department have insisted that Hamas is to blame for the fresh round of conflict. Obama also raised his concerns about Tariq Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian-American teenager who was detained and beaten by Israeli authorities.

In a moment of drama at the UN, Israel’s ambassador pulled out his mobile phone and played a recording of an air-raid siren as he described the difficult circumstances of people living within rocket range. His Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Mansour, decried the Israeli offensive as “barrage of death, destruction and terror”.

The secretary-general, who is engaged in intense global diplomacy over the crisis, called for “bold thinking and creative ideas” to end the violence. “Once again, Palestinian civilians are caught between Hamas’s irresponsibility and Israel’s tough response,” Ban said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

 

Date created : 2014-07-11

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