Israel rejects US ceasefire proposal

US official says Netanyahu told Kerry Israel would initiate 12-hour pause in hostilities

Speaking in Cairo, US secretary of state John Kerry said both sides still had some “terminology” to agree on but that they had a “fundamental framework” for a ceasefire. Photograph: EPA

Speaking in Cairo, US secretary of state John Kerry said both sides still had some “terminology” to agree on but that they had a “fundamental framework” for a ceasefire. Photograph: EPA

Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 01:00

 

The prospects of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip were in the balance last night after Israel rejected a proposal tabled by US secretary of state John Kerry.

Negotiations continued in an effort to salvage the deal, which hinges on a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire that would allow for talks on a more durable settlement.

Speaking in Cairo as news of the decision by Israel’s security cabinet came through, Mr Kerry said both sides still had some “terminology” to agree on but that they had a “fundamental framework” for a ceasefire.

“The world is watching tragic moment after tragic moment unfold [in Gaza] and wondering when both sides are going to come to their senses,” he said.

Following the press conference, a US official said Mr Netanyahu had told Mr Kerry that Israel would begin a 12-hour pause in hostilities starting at 7am today (Israeli time). There was no immediate comment from the Israeli government on the report.

 

Rising death toll

The urgency of the task facing the negotiators was underlined by the swiftly rising death toll in Gaza, where more than 850 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the two-week Israeli bombardment. Some 35 Israeli soldiers have lost their lives.

The turmoil in Gaza has also stoked tension in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in some of the largest confrontations there in a decade. A stumbling block in the talks appeared to be whether the plan would require Israel to immediately withdraw its ground forces from positions they have occupied in the Gaza Strip or whether they would be allowed continue searching for militant tunnels – the reason Israel gave for its ground operation.

Hamas, which wants an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza before agreeing to halt hostilities, said it was considering the ceasefire plan.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who was also in Cairo, said progress had been made in an intensive round of diplomatic shuttling in recent days.

Foreign ministers from Germany, Italy, Britain, Turkey, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, will attend a meeting in Paris today in an effort to find ways to enable a ceasefire, a French diplomatic source said last night. Representatives from the US and Qatar will also attend.