Israel may propose five-day Gaza truce

Israel pounds neighbourhoods, hospital as Palestinian death toll passes 650

Brothers of the El Agha family grieve their father who was killed after shelling in Khan Yunis, Gaza, yesterday. Photograph: Sergey Ponomarev/The New York Times

Brothers of the El Agha family grieve their father who was killed after shelling in Khan Yunis, Gaza, yesterday. Photograph: Sergey Ponomarev/The New York Times

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 01:00

The Israeli security cabinet convened last night to consider a proposal to end the violence in Gaza, based on a five-day truce, during which intensive discussions would take place in Cairo aimed at finalising details of a wider agreement, including measures to improve the Gaza economy.

US secretary of state John Kerry, who held talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders yesterday, said that diplomacy to end the Gaza violence had made progress, but stressed that more time was needed.

 

Humanitarian truce

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called for a temporary truce to allow humanitarian relief into Gaza, but said his group would keep fighting against the Israeli offensive and would not agree to a more lasting ceasefire without full negotiation of terms.

 

On the ground , Israel is continuing to pound targets in Gaza, with rising casualties on both sides.

The Sajaiya neighbourhood, on the eastern edge of Gaza city, was again the focus of Israeli attacks. Israel has destroyed much of the built-up neighbourhood, which it claims is a Hamas military nerve centre. The air force dropped 120 tonnes of explosives on buildings in the area on Monday night alone.

Israel also targeted the northern town of Beit Hanoun and the southern city of Khan Yunis, from which thousands of residents, some waving white flags, fled.

Three Israeli paratroopers were killed in Khan Yunis when militants detonated a booby-trapped building.

Fighting was briefly suspended in several flashpoint areas yesterday to allow convoys of ambulances to retrieve the wounded.

Israel targeted sections of the Al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital in Gaza city for the second time, claiming the site had been used to launch attacks on Israeli forces.

More than 650 Palestinians have been killed – the vast majority civilians, according to the UN, including 160 children. About 4,300 residents have been wounded. Israel claims that between 200-300 militants have been killed.

Thirty-two Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in Operation Protective Edge, now in its 17th day. The latest civilian fatality was a Thai labourer working in a field close to the Gaza border who was killed by mortar fire yesterday.

Israeli military analysts described the fighting in Gaza as a “battle over the tunnels”, with Israel attacking urban areas where tunnels are located, and militants fiercely defending the neighbourhoods.

 

EU statement

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed Tuesday’s EU statement condemning Hamas rocket fire and calling on all Gaza militant groups to disarm.

 

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said all the EU foreign ministers recognised “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against any attacks”. However, she added that Israel’s military operation “must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law”.

In a poignant show of solidarity, some 30,000 people yesterday turned out in Jerusalem for the funeral of Max Steinberg, a soldier killed in Gaza on Sunday. Steinberg, a native of California, was defined as a “lone soldier”, meaning he emigrated to Israel without his family and enlisted in the army.

The massive turnout followed an online campaign urging Israelis to ensure a lone soldier was not buried alone.