Israel rejects ceasefire plan, source says as death toll nears 850
The Israeli source, who declined to be named, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet had turned down the plan because it did not let Israel carry on hunting down Hamas’s tunnel network that criss-crosses the Gaza border.“Kerry’s proposal leans (too much) towards Hamas’s demands,” said the source.
Gaza officials said Israeli strikes killed 55 people on Friday, including the head of media operations for Hamas ally Islamic Jihad and his son. They put the number of Palestinian deaths in 18 days of conflict at 844, most of them civilians.
On Thursday night, 10,000 demonstrators marched in solidarity with Gaza near the Palestinian administrative capital Ramallah — a scale recalling mass revolts of the past. Protesters surged against an Israeli army checkpoint, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, and Palestinian medics said one was shot dead and 200 wounded when troops opened fire.
Kerry, based in neighboring Egypt for much of the week, is seeking a limited humanitarian truce under which Palestinian movement would be freed up to allow in aid and for the dead and wounded to be recovered.
Israel insisted that, even if such a ceasefire was agreed, its army should continue digging up tunnels along Gaza’s eastern frontier, a mission that could take between one and two weeks.
“We must stop the rocket launches. How this is done — whether through occupying (Gaza), or broadening (the operation), or (international) guarantees, or anything else, I have to see it with my own eyes,” said police minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
A Hamas rocket intercepted near Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday prompted the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to halt American commercial flights to Israel’s main international gateway. Some European carriers followed suit.Jolted by the blow at the height of an already stagnant summer tourism season, Israel persuaded U.S. authorities to lift the flight ban on Thursday, after which the European aviation regulator removed its own advisory against flying to Ben Gurion.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal had on Wednesday voiced support for a humanitarian truce, but only if Israel eased restrictions on Gaza. Hamas wants Egypt to open up its border with Gaza, too, and demands that Israel release hundreds of prisoners rounded up in the West Bank last month following the kidnap and killing of three Jewish seminary students.
One Cairo official said next week’s Eid al-Fitr festival, which concludes Ramadan, was a possible date for a truce. It was not immediately clear if Kerry, whose mediation has involved Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Abbas, would remain in Cairo.
More than 160,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza by the fighting, many of them seeking shelter in buildings run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
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