Ceasefire between Israel and Hamas could take days as shelling continues
The United States signalled last night that a ceasefire to end the Gaza conflict could take days to achieve as Israel stepped up its bombardment of the territory.
Hopes of an imminent cessation had risen when a Hamas official said Egyptian mediators had struck a deal that would come into effect at midnight, but Egypt and Israel said terms had not been agreed.
On a night of frenetic diplomatic activity, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and said the US would work “in the days ahead” to secure a truce that would bring the seven-day conflict to an end.
Israel and Hamas publicly indicated they were open to a ceasefire, and a breakthrough appeared to have been reached when Hamas official Ayman Taha said an “agreement for calm” would be declared at 9pm and take effect at midnight.
But Mr Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said the announcement was premature and Israeli military operations in Gaza would continue in parallel with diplomacy: “We’re not there yet,” Mr Regev said. “The ball’s still in play.”
Meanwhile, Israel pressed on with its offensive in Gaza and Palestinian rockets still flashed across the border.
Some 21 Palestinians were killed yesterday, while an Israeli soldier and a civilian died when rockets exploded near the Gaza border. The indicents brought the death toll to 135, including five Israelis.