News Column

Israel Puts Gaza Invasion Briefly on Hold

Nov. 19, 2012

Israel has agreed to delay sending ground forces into Gaza to allow time for cease-fire talks, an Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post Monday.

"Israel prefers a diplomatic solution," the official said.

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza killed 15 people Monday, Palestinians said, and more rockets hit southern Israel while international pressure mounted for a truce.

The Palestinian death toll had risen to more than 80 since the clashes began last week and U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, among others, called for a cease-fire.

"This must stop," Ban said.

Officials in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office denied a Hamas statement that he had asked for a cease-fire.

"We have been hitting Hamas very hard," one official told the Post.

The conflict had its most violent day Sunday.

Israeli missiles were reported to have killed at least 30 Palestinians, including 10 members in three generations of a single family when a Gaza City home was flattened by an bomb.

Three people had been killed and at least 79 wounded by rockets fired against southern Israel, officials said Sunday.

Israel massed armor on the Gaza border and called up 40,000 reservists, in addition to its regular standing army of about 175,000. The military said it could add 35,000 more troops.

In Cairo Monday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told a news conference Hamas knows Israel is "capable" of conducting an invasion, which he said would not "be a picnic, but a political disaster" for Netanyahu.

"Hamas is under a lot of pressure and as a result they are saying many things that are in no way connected to reality," an official told the Post.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a "terrorist state" Monday. Erdogan made the coment shortly after returning from Cairo where he held emergency talks on Gaza with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Those who speak of Muslims and terror side-by-side are turning a blind eye when Muslims are massacred en masse," Erdogan told the Eurasian Islamic Council. "Those who turn a blind eye to discrimination toward Muslims in their own countries are also closing their eyes to the savage massacre of innocent children in Gaza. ... Therefore, I say Israel is a terrorist state."

The Israeli army said one of its airstrike targets was a stadium used by militants to fire long-range rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Ban was to meet with Morsi Monday, a day after Morsi met with Hamas leaders to discuss "Egyptian efforts to end the aggression."

Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath, in Cairo to assist in negotiations, said they had entered a serious stage but doubted an agreement would be reached soon.

Turkey and Qatar were involved in the Egyptian-brokered negotiations, he said.

An Israeli negotiator arrived in Cairo Sunday to participate in talks, reports said.

A cease-fire "is not likely to take effect in the coming days because Israel is trying to impose its own stipulations ignoring the demands of Hamas and other Palestinian factions," Sha'ath told Ma'an. said Israel is demanding Hamas and other factions in Gaza agree to a cessation of all hostilities for a period of more than 15 years, and a halt to rocket fire and arms smuggling and the transfer of weapons to Gaza.

Israel wants to retain the right to hunt down terrorists in the event of an attack or if information of an imminent terror attack is received, the report said.

Sha'ath said Hamas had rejected an Israeli request to hand over all weapons but that it would agree to stop targeting Israeli civilians if a truce is secured, Ma'an reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated Washington's support for Israel's right to defend itself against Palestinian rocket fire.

"There's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," Obama said in Bangkok Sunday. "We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself."

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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