Morsi: Israeli operation to end today
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said Tuesday the Israeli operation in Gaza, launched seven days ago would end today. "The grotesque Israeli aggression will stop today, Tuesday, and efforts to reach a cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis will have positive results in the coming hours," president Morsi was quoted as saying by the official MENA news agency.
Egypt is at the heart of international efforts to restore peace in the enclave controlled by Hamas, which is the target of an Israeli offensive called "Pillar of Defense" since last Wednesday. A senior Israeli government said in the morning that the Jewish state had provisionally suspened the option of a ground offensive on Gaza, ensuring more time for ongoing diplomatic efforts.
A Hamas official said the leader of this movement, Khaled Meshaal, was Tuesday afternoon meeting in Cairo with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Mohammed Shehata. "We are close to an agreement, it is not a secret," he said.
At the same time, the number one of the armed wing of Hamas, Mohammad Deif, warned Israel against a ground operation in Gaza, threatening to capture Israeli soldiers. "The enemy will pay dearly if it thinks to enter into Gaza," warned Mohammad Deif, in a rare audio message.
On the ground, the situation remains very tense. A long-range rocket fired from Gaza exploded Tuesday afternoon south of Jerusalem, in the region of Gush Etzion settlement bloc, causing no injuries, police said. At the same time, the armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for firing a long-range rocket called M75 towards "occupied Jerusalem."
A violent explosion had previously been heard after a warning siren was sounded long in Jerusalem. The siren has caused a panic, briefly paralyzing traffic. According to eyewitnesses, the blast was celebrated in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.
A hundred rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Tuesday, 51 were intercepted by the Israeli missile defense system "Iron Dome", according to a military spokesman.
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, 11 Palestinians were killed Tuesday in Israeli airstrikes, according to emergency services. Since Wednesday, 121 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and more than 920 wounded, according to medical sources. Three Israelis were also killed.