More diplomacy in Israel-Gaza fighting

2012-11-19 09:02

Gaza/ Jerusalem - Hostilities between Islamist militants and Israel entered a sixth day on Monday as diplomatic efforts were set to intensify to try to stop rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

International pressure for a ceasefire seemed certain to mount after the deadliest single incident in the flare-up on Sunday claimed the lives of at least 11 Palestinian civilians, including four children.

Three people, including two children, were killed and 30 others were injured in the latest air strike before dawn on Monday on a family home in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in Gaza City, medical officials said. The Israeli military had no immediate comment and was checking.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Cairo to add his weight to the truce efforts. Egypt has taken the lead in trying to broker a ceasefire and its officials met the parties on Sunday.

Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had been to Cairo for talks on ending the fighting, although a government spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi met Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and Ramadan Shallah of Islamic Jihad as part of the mediation efforts, but a statement did not say if talks were conclusive.

Terms for ceasefire

Izzat Risheq, a close aide to Meshaal, wrote in a Facebook message that Hamas would agree to a ceasefire only after Israel "stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza".

Listing Israel's terms, 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."

Israel withdrew settlers from Gaza in 2005 and two years later Hamas took control of the impoverished enclave, which the Israelis have kept under blockade.

The 11 Palestinian civilians were apparently killed during an Israeli attack on a militant, which brought a three-storey house crashing down on them.

Gaza health officials have said 78 Palestinians, 23 of them children and several women, have been killed in Gaza since Israel's offensive began. Hundreds have been wounded.

Ban expressed grave concern in a statement before setting off for the region. He will visit Israel on Tuesday.

75 000 reservists

"I am deeply saddened by the reported deaths of more than ten members of the Dalu family... [and] by the continuing firing of rockets against Israeli towns, which have killed several Israeli civilians. I strongly urge the parties to co-operate with all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate ceasefire," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in the military showdown with Hamas.

Gaza militants launched dozens of rockets into Israel and targeted its commercial capital, Tel Aviv, for a fourth day on Sunday. Israel's "Iron Dome" missile shield shot down all three rockets.

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 with Gaza and military convoys moved on roads in the area.

Israel has authorised the call-up of 75 000 reservists, although there was no immediate sign when or whether they might be needed in a ground invasion.

Israel's operation has so far drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called its right to self-defence, but there have also been a growing number of appeals to seek an end to the hostilities.

544 rockets fired from Gaza

Netanyahu said Israel was ready to widen its offensive.

"We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organisations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation," he said at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, but gave no further details.

The Israeli military said 544 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel since Wednesday, killing three civilians and wounding dozens. Around 302 rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome and 99 failed to reach Israel and landed inside the Gaza Strip.

Israel's declared goal is to deplete Gaza arsenals and force Hamas to stop rocket fire that has bedevilled Israeli border towns for years. The rockets now have greater range, putting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem within their reach.

The southern resort city of Eilat was apparently added to the list of targets when residents said they heard an explosion thought to be a rocket, but it caused no damage or casualties, police said.

Eilat is thought to be well out of the range of any rocket in possession of Hamas or any other Gaza group. But Palestinian militants have in the recent past fired rockets at Eilat and its surroundings, using Egypt's Sinai desert as a launch site.

Support for Hamas

Hamas and other groups in Gaza are sworn enemies of the Jewish state which they refuse to recognise and seek to eradicate, claiming all Israeli territory as rightfully theirs.

Hamas won legislative elections in the Palestinian Territories in 2006 but a year later, after the collapse of a unity government under President Mahmoud Abbas the Islamist group seized control of Gaza in a brief and bloody civil war with forces loyal to Abbas.

Abbas then dismissed the Hamas government led by the group's leader Ismail Haniyeh but he refuses to recognise Abbas' authority and runs Gazan affairs.

While it is denounced as a terrorist organisation in the West, Hamas enjoys widespread support in the Arab world, where Islamist parties are on the rise.

Western-backed Abbas and Fatah hold sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank from their seat of government in the town of Ramallah. The Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

  • moses.mabhida.52 - 2012-11-19 09:22

    HAMAS STOP WHINING!! Hamas, you can’t take the death of your own people? You are shooting rockets into Israel’s civilian areas and are trying to kill civilians. At least the IAF does not PURPOSELY try to kill civilians, and don’t tell me they are trying. If they were trying to kill Palestinian civilians, then there would be 100,000 dead by now. I support Israel's self defense 100%

      rafick.valli - 2012-11-19 14:20

      Stop hiding and camouflaging the blatant facts! After decades of stealing land, Israel has no right to call this self defense! What a joke!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-11-19 16:25

      Moahmed, it's you who is blinding himself to the facts. Israel was created in 1948 from 52% of the land formerly occupied by the Jewish and Palestinian people, and Palestine 43%. Most of the Israeli territory was the Negev Desert. Jerusalem fell into neither territory. Palestinians with their unelected, self-serving neighbors declared war on Israel the very next day. In the 1960's they even invaded Israel twice. Full military invasions. The result: Israel survived and pushed them back, gaining territory in the process. This is the origin of what you wrongly call "stealing land". There have been almost daily attacks by Palestinians, incited by their self-serving unelected backers. Palestinians even teach their children at Kindergarten to attack Israel, rather than be peaceful. Children. Kindergarten. From day one, and even today it's wage war on Israel. Israel defends herself. Yes sometimes going too far, which is unacceptable, but self-defense nonetheless. All that needs to happen is for Palestinians to choose peace side by side with Israel. This is more likely going forward now because the unelected dictators are being removed from power by their people, one by one. They will no longer use the Palestinians for their own internal political ploys.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-11-19 16:25

      Two groups of people resented and opposed the creation of an Israeli homeland for the Jewish people after the horrors of World War II, notwithstanding that the amount of land was a tiny, minuscule slither relative to their vast lands, and Jewish people had inhabited that land for millennia. Guess which groups that was, and is. Racist Muslims and White Supremacists.

  • mario.jordaan - 2012-11-19 09:49

    Why must Israel be diplomatic when coward Arab militants are shooting rockets at innocent civilians within Israel? Then these militants hide amongst women and children? They know very well that Israel will retaliate yet they still do this? They have no respect for the lives of their own people. Israel should finish them once and for all. The world would be a better place.

  • theodor.herzl.3 - 2012-11-19 09:59

    People of Gaza have elected Hamas to the ruling authority in the strip...if they resort to violence to resolve issues, then don't complain. Media coverage in the strip is restricted to Hamas reporting, I guess it's to mislead the public about casualties...bunch of liars!!!

  • theodor.herzl.3 - 2012-11-19 10:01

    Israel can take out the whole Gaza strip in less than 10min if they wanted to!!! But they value life, more than the Islamist love their own children.

  • moses.mabhida.52 - 2012-11-19 10:07

    i would like to add that i saw a protest in london... 200 british muslims protesting against israel having killed around 40 Palestinians. a reporter asked them where have they been protesting to end the conflict in syria as tens of thousands of muslims have been killed so far - no reply from the muslim protesters.. they hate israel more than they love their own brethren... truly sick people.

  • abdul.m.gabier - 2012-11-19 14:07

    Hamas fired those missals because they live under Israeli blockade. the blockade makes their lives miserable. end the blockade and embrace piece. while there are people suffering under the blockade, there will always be people fighting against it.

  • abdul.m.gabier - 2012-11-19 14:10

    Do any of you think that Hamas has the right to fight against the blockade? Do any of the people under the Israeli blockade have the right to fight against it?

      moses.mabhida.52 - 2012-11-19 15:40

      Hamas has the right to fight the Israeli Defence Forces, but if they fire rockets indiscriminately into Israeli civilian areas they deserve to be wiped out... what worse is that they know Israel will retaliate and Hamas still hides in Schools, Mosques and Hospitals. I do understand the people of Gaza voted for Hamas in 2005 - but that was 7 years ago... they should get a chance to vote again , hopefully next time they vote for peaceful leaders rather than religious fanatics.

      abdul.m.gabier - 2012-11-19 16:25

      They voted for an end to the occupation. The fighting will stop when the occupation ends. Do you think that human shields work against the Israeli's? its not practical, we have seen that the IDF will bomb anyone or anything. This fighting is not because of who was elected in Gaza, its because of the blockade imposed on Gaza and the occupation. End that and there will be peace. There will be nothing to fight over.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-11-19 16:28

      Instead of fighting against the blockade, they should own why the blockade is there. They can do this by owning that they do not recognize the right of Israel TO EVEN EXIST.

  • yusuf.amod.5 - 2012-11-19 16:48 The Israeli Defense Force has confirmed that while targeting Hamas’ rocket chief it mistakenly bombed the home of the Al-Dalou family, killing at least 11 civilians, four of them children and toddlers. "Israel has killed a family of eleven people this evening, and many, many more. If Israel wants to stop its aggression, then we can talk. But before then, how could we consider any deal?" Salama Maroof, a senior Hamas spokesman told the Daily Telegraph. IDF said the source of the error was either a failure to laser-paint the correct target or that one of the munitions in the strike misfired, Haaretz newspaper reported. The Israeli military is investigating the incident. The Israeli military targeted Hamas' rocket-launching unit led by Yehiya Rabiah, but apparently hit the house of a neighbor, the newspaper noted. Rabiah seems to have survived the attack despite earlier claims that he was killed. Pictures from the site of the attack show the bodies of dead children taken from the ruble of their home. Nine members of the Al-Dalou family, all of them women and children were killed, two other people were also among the dead. The latest deaths add to the growing toll of Gazan children killed in Israeli air strikes. So far at least 75 people have been killed in the attacks, 13 of them are childen.

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