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Pressure For Gaza Strip Ceasefire Builds As Violence Continues

Elizabeth Johnson |
November 19, 2012 | 4:41 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Israeli children run for shelter as an air siren sounds. (Israel Defense Force)
Israeli children run for shelter as an air siren sounds. (Israel Defense Force)
As the sixth day of missile exchange continued Monday between Israel and Hamas fighters in Gaza, the two nations met in Cairo in an attempt to broker an Israeli-Palestine ceasefire.  But top Hamas leader Khaled Meshal is dismissing attempts to negotiate a ceasefire, daring Israel to launch a ground invasion into Gaza despite Israel’s stated reluctance to escalate the conflict, the New York Times reported.

READ MORE: Israel Ready To Invade Gaza But Prefers Diplomacy

Israel continued its barrage of airstrikes into Gaza territory Monday, hitting a 15-story building that housed media outlets and reportedly killing four Islamic Jihad terrorists in the attack, namely a militant that Islamists have accused of “media warfare” against Israel.

The Gaza death toll has reached 109 since Israeli airstrikes began Wednesday, according to Gaza health officials. Hamas officials said that 860 have been wounded. Half of the dead were non-combatants, including children. Meanwhile, Gaza militants have fired rockets into southern Israel, hitting an empty school. Three people have died in Israel since the conflict began, all civilians.

READ MORE: Conflict Between Israeli, Hamas Escalates

During the cease-fire talks, Hamas leaders reasserted that they will not stop rocket attacks until Israel ends its blockade of Gaza borders. According to the New York Times:

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo, where the diplomatic efforts were under way, the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, suggested that the Israeli infantry mobilization on the border with Gaza was a bluff on the part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

“If you wanted to launch it, you would have done it,” Mr. Meshal told reporters. He accused Israel of using the invasion threat as an attempt to “dictate its own terms and force us into silence.”

Rejecting Israel’s contention that Hamas had precipitated the conflict, Mr. Meshal said the burden was on the Israelis. “The demand of the people of Gaza is meeting their legimitate demands — for Israel to be restrained from its aggression, assassinations and invasions, and for the siege over Gaza to be ended,” he said.

READ MORE: Ten Palestinians Killed In Israeli Airstrike On House

During President Obama’s trip to Asia today, he reportedly called Egyptian Prime Minister Mohamed Morsi, who is leading ceasefire negotiations, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in an attempt to negotiate a deal. An Israeli official said that the country hoped for a diplomatic solution rather than all-out ground warfare, and underlined the role of Prime Minister Morsi and Egypt in the negotiations.

However, while attempting to broker truce talks in Cairo, the Egyptian government has also taken steps to win global public support for the Palestinians. A background briefing for foreign correspondents Monday featured a senior Egyptian official who, speaking anonymously, blamed Israel for the conflict.

READ MORE: Israel Plans To Expand Attack

“Now, there is an occupation going on for decades and these people who are suffering this occupation are trying to resist, are trying to gain their rights,” the official said. “But we are saying no, they don’t have the rights, they have to stay calm, be killed, be occupied, be besieged, and the self-defense is the right of the occupier.”

READ MORE: Pro-Israeli Activists Rally In Support Of Gaza Strip Attacks

He also asserted that there was no comparison between the force used by the two nations, and accused Western media of skewing its representation of the role and responsibility of Israel in the conflict.

Read more Neon Tommy coverage of the Israeli-Palestine conflict here.

Reach Executive Producer Elizabeth Johnson here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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