Israel rejects Kerry’s ceasefire plan, as death toll nears 850
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) talks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (on the phone) on July 25, 2014, from his hotel room in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. [AFP]
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's security cabinet has rejected proposals for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and is seeking changes to the plans, a government source said on Friday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing for a halt to 18 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Full details of the proposed truce have not been released, but the government official, who declined to be named, said Israel wanted modifications before agreeing to any end to hostilities. Hamas has yet to respond to the proposed ceasefire.
Earlier Friday, Channel 10 cited sources in the diplomatic-security cabinet who said that Israel viewed Kerry's bridging proposals as "a Qatari proposal with ornaments."
Qatar has been accused by Israel of providing financing and political support to Hamas. According to Channel 10, senior Israeli ministers have ruled as "out of the question" a cease-fire in which the IDF would be prevented from fully rooting out the threat of underground tunnels built by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Media reports indicated that Kerry's cease-fire proposal included a week-long halt to fighting so that humanitarian supplies could be distributed in Gaza.
Earlier on Friday, aides to Kerry were said to be cautiously optimistic regarding the chances of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Channel 10 reported.
According to the report, officials close to the secretary of state said that there is a chance a week-long halt in fighting could be announced as soon as Friday evening.
Netanyahu convened his security cabinet on Friday to discuss Kerry's pitch for a limited humanitarian truce under which Palestinian movement would be freed up to allow in aid and for casualties to be recovered.
Earlier Friday, Channel 2 quoted "senior Hamas officials" as saying that the leadership of the Islamist group was "leaning toward" accepting the Kerry framework.
An Israeli official said the Netanyahu government envisages the initial halt to the fighting lasting seven days, during which the army would keep digging up tunnels on Gaza's eastern frontier.
"First Israel wants to hear Hamas's response to the (Kerry) proposals," an official said, adding that some members of the security cabinet also sought assurances that Gaza would be stripped of its remaining rockets under any extended ceasefire.
Officially, Hamas had no immediate comment on the proposal. On Wednesday, its leader, Khaled Meshaal, voiced support for a humanitarian truce, but only if Israel eased restrictions on Gaza's 1.8 million people.
Hamas wants Egypt to open up its border with Gaza, too, and has demanded that Israel release hundreds of prisoners rounded up by Israel in a sweep of the West Bank last month following the kidnap and killing of three Jewish teenagers.
Such concessions appear unlikely, however, as both Israel and Egypt consider Hamas a security threat.
One Cairo official said next week's Eid al-Fitr festival, which concludes Ramadan, was a possible date for a truce. But US officials were circumspect on progress made by Kerry in the mediation that has involved Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Abbas.
"Gaps remain between the parties, so his focus is on finding a formula that both sides can accept," a senior US official said on Thursday, adding that Kerry would not stay "for an indefinite amount of time".
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