Israel Says Offensive to Continue as Kerry Seeks TruceSaud Abu Ramadan and Robert Tuttle
Hamas vowed to keep fighting until the embargo on Gaza is lifted and Israel also said it has no plans to halt its military campaign, damping expectations that U.S.-brokered talks can bring a rapid cease-fire.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal asked the people of Gaza for “more patience” and said he sees no sign of a breakthrough in talks on a cease-fire, though he said Hamas welcomes the diplomatic efforts. Earlier today, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel won’t stop its Gaza Strip offensive as long as the Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers continue to pose a threat, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told soldiers to prepare for a broader ground war.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Israel today in pursuit of truce negotiations in which Egypt, the traditional mediator of Gaza conflicts, has also been involved. More than two weeks of fighting, which intensified last week when Israel added to its air bombardment by sending troops into Gaza, has left more than 700 people dead, including hundreds of Palestinian civilians.
Israel says its operation was necessary to prevent a barrage of rockets fired by militants from Gaza. After one landed near Israel’s international airport yesterday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration banned flights to Tel Aviv by American carriers for the first time since 1991, and the regulator extended that suspension today. The violence has barely affected Israeli markets.
Efforts to end the third major round of violence between Israel and Gaza since 2009 have been complicated by hostility between Hamas and Egypt. Hamas spurned a truce proposal last week after Israel accepted it, saying it didn’t guarantee lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Egypt have tightly controlled Gaza’s borders since 2006, citing security concerns. The embargo has battered Gaza’s economy and confined the territory’s 1.8 million people to a 140-square-mile (363-square-kilometer) patch of land.
Mashaal, who spoke today at a press conference in Qatar, said 680 Palestinians have been killed. Israel’s army says at least 32 soldiers have been died, while about 2,200 rockets have been fired at Israel since July 8. Israel, the U.S. and the European Union list Hamas as a terrorist organization.