News Column

Gaza Fighting to End 'Within Hours'

Nov. 20, 2012

The Gaza crisis should end in a truce within "hours", Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said Tuesday - although there was no official reaction from Israel.

Egypt has played a major role in attempting to negotiate a ceasefire between the two sides, in the seven-days of exchanges of rockets and air strikes, which have left 130 Palestinians and three Israelis dead, and hundreds injured.

The "Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip will end today, the efforts for a ceasefire between the Palestinians and the Israeli side will have a positive result in the next few hours," Morsi announced after attending the funeral of his sister in the northern province of al-Sharqiya.

"We are not commenting on this," government spokesman Mark Regev told dpa.

Israel Radio, quoting unnamed senior Israeli officials, said a ceasefire would likely be announced late Tuesday, when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Jerusalem, joining UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The radio said the agreement was reached with the help of German and Egyptian mediation, and would be monitored by Israel, Egypt, and the US.

Ban met with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi and Egyptian officials in Cairo Tuesday, before arriving in Israel ahead of schedule.

"This must stop," he said of the Gaza fighting in a news conference with al-Arabi in Cairo.

Hours before Morsi's prediction of a ceasefire, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at Jerusalem, the second to target the self-declared Israeli capital since the fighting began.

The missile landed in an open area near a Palestinian village south of Jerusalem police said. There were no injuries.

The Palestinian death toll in the Israeli offensive, meanwhile, hit 130 Tuesday, about half of them civilians, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza City said.

Thirteen Palestinians were killed in less than an hour, in four separate Israeli air strikes, during a visit of an Arab League delegation.

Three Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets and more than 50 injured, with rescuers saying they also treated more than 200 Israelis for "shock."

Palestinians fired at least 60 rockets at southern Israel early Tuesday, including a volley of 16 Russian-type Grad at Beersheba, some 40 kilometres east of the Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

Israeli police said one person was injured. One rocket struck next to a bus, minutes after its passengers got off to rush for cover.

The Israeli military said over the past days that it damaged Hamas' and the Islamic Jihad's rocket-launching capabilities.

A police statement noted a "certain decline" in the number of rockets fired at Israel since the Gaza offensive got underway late Wednesday - with 246 launches Thursday, 211 Friday, 168 Saturday, 117 Sunday and 116 Monday.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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