'Imminent' end to Israel's Gaza offensive

2012-11-20 18:48

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Jerusalem - Egypt's president predicted on Tuesday that Israel's nearly week long offensive in the Gaza Strip would end within hours, and Israel's prime minister said his country would be a "willing partner" to a ceasefire with Hamas aimed at ending relentless Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rocket attacks.

As indications grew of an imminent end to the fighting, international diplomats raced across the region to cement a deal. President Barack Obama dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Mideast from Cambodia, where she had accompanied him on a visit.

Mohammed Morsi, perhaps the most important interlocutor between the militant Hamas group that rules the Palestinian territory and the Israelis, gave no explanation for his statement, saying only that the negotiations between the two sides will yield "positive results" during the coming hours.

In Brussels, a senior official of the European Union's foreign service said a ceasefire would include an end of Israeli airstrikes and targeted killings in Gaza, the opening of Gaza crossing points and an end to rocket attacks on Israel.

"If a long-term solution can be put in place through diplomatic means, then Israel would be a willing partner to such a solution.

But if stronger military action proves necessary to stop the constant barrage of rockets, Israel wouldn't hesitate to do what is necessary to defend our people," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a joint press conference in Jerusalem with visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Ban condemned Palestinian rocket attacks, but urged Israel to show "maximum restraint."

"Further escalation benefits no one," he said.

Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets on several Gaza neighbourhoods asking residents to evacuate and head toward the centre of Gaza City along specific roads.

"The army is not targeting any of you, and doesn't want to harm you or your families," it said.

Palestinian militants urged residents to ignore the warnings, calling them "psychological warfare".

- AP

Read more on:    un  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  ban ki-moon  |  palestine  |  israel  |  gaza strip  |  middle east peace
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