NO ceasefire today. Tomorrow doesn’t look so good either. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Hijabi Hillary that Israel will take ‘whatever actions’ necessary for its own defense, says Tel Aviv is ready to escalate its offensive in the Gaza Strip.
FOX News (Frederic F) Netanyahu made a brief statement beside U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had flown to the Mideast on Tuesday to help advance diplomatic talks intended to avert an escalation of the weeklong conflict with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Clinton said the United States is pushing for a “durable outcome” promoting stability, but the cease-fire talks brokered by Egypt had failed to yield a truce as of late Tuesday, with Hamas reportedly saying an agreement won’t come any earlier than Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday, a senior Hamas official had told the AP that a truce agreement was within reach, while Reuters quoted an Israeli spokesman who said that while a cease-fire wasn’t finalized, the “ball is still in play.” Reuters later quoted a Hamas official saying they “must wait until tomorrow,” blaming Israel’s failure to respond to proposals.
Efforts to end a week-old convulsion of Israeli-Palestinian violence drew in the world’s top diplomats on Tuesday, with President Obama dispatching Clinton to the region on an emergency mission and the U.N. chief appealing from Cairo for an immediate cease-fire.
“The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike,” Clinton said after meeting with Netanyahu.
Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have staked tough, hard-to-bridge positions, and the gaps keep alive the threat of an Israeli ground invasion. On Tuesday, grieving Gazans were burying militants and civilians killed in ongoing Israeli airstrikes, and barrages of rockets from Gaza sent terrified Israelis scurrying to take cover.
Reuters reported that Palestinian gunmen rode motorcycles and dragged the body of a man suspected of working for Israel. There is broad consensus among Palestinians that informers for Israel deserve harsh punishment, and it is rare to hear someone speak out against killings of alleged collaborators. Such public killings been carried out in the West Bank and Gaza since the first uprising against Israeli occupation in the late 1980s.
From Egypt, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said he came to the region because of the “alarming situation.” “This must stop, immediate steps are needed to avoid further escalation, including a ground operation,” Ban said. “Both sides must hold fire immediately … Further escalation of the situation could put the entire region at risk.” (Oh, bite me)
The U.S. considers Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide and other attacks, to be a terror group and does not meet with its officials. The Obama administration blames Hamas for the latest eruption of violence and says Israel has the right to defend itself. At the same time, it has warned against a ground invasion, saying it could send casualties spiraling.
The conflict erupted last week, when a resurgence in rocket fire from Gaza provoked Israel to strike back, killing Hamas’ military chief in an air attack and carrying out hundreds of assaults on militants’ underground rocket launchers and weapons stores.
The onslaught abruptly turned deadlier over the weekend as aircraft were ordered to go after Hamas military commanders and buildings suspected of housing their commands and weapons caches. In the narrow alleys and warrens of crowded Gaza, where militants often operate from residential areas, civilian casualties mounted.
Early Tuesday, Israeli aircraft targeted another Hamas symbol of power, battering the headquarters of the bank senior Hamas officials set up to sidestep international sanctions on the militant group’s rule. After Hamas violently overran Gaza in June 2007, foreign lenders stopped doing business with the militant-led Gaza government, afraid of running afoul of international terror financing laws.